The assignment for the final project was to create a network of fabrics that somehow communicate with each other. Our team (me, Dylan, Lilly and Angie), after bouncing back and forth between ideas for a while, decided on trying to create a simulation that would hopefully allow the participant to feel empathy for a victim of domestic violence. In our ideal finished product, the simulation would require the participant to enter alone into a room, while the other people waiting/looking would be watching from outside of the room. Inside the room there would be two actors: one the abuser and one the victim. The victim would be wearing a vest that contains touch sensors, and the participant would be wearing a vest that has vibration motors. When the victim is hit on a spot where there is a sensor, the participant would feel a vibration from the motor in the corresponding location on their own body. In addition, we would projection map onto the participant, so that as the victim is abused more and more, the projected bruises would grow on their body. While this is happening, the sensors would also cause a tweet to be sent to the a Twitter feed which we would have projected outside of the room with the other people waiting. We wanted to express the dual ways that domestic abuse is experienced: either very intimately, or through the screen of a social media campaign. While we don’t by any means think that social media campaigns against domestic violence are a bad thing, we wanted to express the way in which it removes us from the situation. Liking a tweet isn’t going to stop domestic violence, but human intervention can. That is why we wanted the participant to experience the simulation in a very intimate setting, while projecting the victim’s experiences onto them.
For my part of the project, I created the circuits that connected the sensors and motors to their own Arduino Yuns. At first I connected the two using digital I/O–sending a digital signal out of the pin of one Yun into the pin of another using wires. After I got that working, I moved on to making it wireless. Unfortunately however, I’m new to Arduino and everything about the network of Yuns and sensors and motors was messy and unstable (in both a physical and metaphorical sense). We had many, many, many problems getting the Yuns to go wireless, and every time we fixed one issue it seemed like another would arise. I basically owe my life to Kina, who was our savior in figuring out this Arduino mess. In the end, we ended up having to keep the Yuns plugged into the computer and for some reason literally ground the client Yun by holding it. It was very strange, but in the end I think that the prototype that we came up with got our point across. Some people were very surprised when the first vibration began, which is kind of exactly what we wanted. It was cool to see that some people felt uncomfortable in the vest and with the vibrations, because that was kind of the point. I wish the experience could have been more complete and immersive, but I think that we were pretty ambitious with this concept so I’m happy with the work that we came up with, and it definitely leaves room to continue this idea in the future.