Ines, Haitian, Sheryl, Carol
- Bluetooth (HC05) (2)
- Arduino (2)
- Distance Sensor (1)
- 12V Battery
- 9V Battery
- Soldering Iron
- Wire Cutters/Strippers
- Duct Tape
- Threat and needle and fabric
Carol had the idea of incorporating an umbrella into our final project. After almost two days of brainstorming to get a feasible idea we all enjoyed we came up with this performance work. None of us have ever made a project strictly to be performed and it gave us a little more room to be creative and artistic so we went for it!
The performance idea we had in mind looks a little like this:
It’s a cold and rainy day. Person A stands in the foreground waiting for a taxi, uncovered as the rain hits their shivering body, pressing their earmuffs close to their head as it is the only part of their body they can force warmth onto. We can hear the sound of pouring rain. Person B comes up in the background – one of the fortunate few who bears an umbrella. It’s dark, their shape is only a vague silhouette. We see them approach Person A. It seems as though they will walk pass the less fortunate one but instead their pace slows. The umbrella is placed to cover both individuals and in strange celebration lights on the umbrella are ignited to brighten the gloomy night and the sounds of birds chirping emerge.
Application to the Requirements:
The requirements of this project are to create an interaction with a micro-controller between two Arduinos and for this to somehow be visualized. On top of the earmuffs we chose to place a distance sensor (we initially had the idea of using a moisture sensor as well but the time constriction did not allow this). By being placed directly on top of the earmuffs, over one’s head, the distance sensor would sense the umbrella as it is moved over the individuals head. This would trigger two things. The most simple would be the lights on the umbrella would turn on. A little more complicated is our desire to include sound. We want this interaction to change the already existing sound of raindrops falling to raindrops hitting an umbrella. A subtle but beautiful nod to the act of sharing an umbrella.
Separating the Work:
In order to play towards everyone’s strengths, we formed teams. Haitian and I, Sheryl and Carol. While Carol and Sheryl worked on the code, Haitian and I got to the design. We first sketched out ideas. Once we had solidified the interaction with everyone, Haitian and I got to making the lights on the umbrella.
The code we needed to create for the project to work with bluetooth was a code that went from Arduino to processing, the processing code, and then from processing to Arduino. The first code would be uploaded to the Arduino in the earmuffs and the second to the Arduino in the umbrella.
We wanted to make the lights on the umbrella wireless so the option of LED strips were ruled out. Using christmas lights was also ruled out because we weren’t sure how the wire would look once we stripped it and if we could even find the correct voltage. So, we decided to stick to LED lights. We chose bright white LED lights. There are 8 ends to the umbrella and we put an LED on each tip. We had to use a 12V battery, transistor, and the Arduino. Because we didn’t want to connect each LED to an input and have too many wires going through the umbrella, we wanted to connect each LED to each other and then to the Arduino. We quickly found out that this would not work because the voltage wasn’t strong enough. We decided to use a 12V battery but then also needed a transistor. Everything worked on the breadboard (image below). So we got to transferring it to the umbrella.
Once on the umbrella we realized that because the LEDs were in a series, there was progressively less light shining through each one. So, we had to re-evaluate. With the help of Nick, I used LED wizard to input the source voltage, diode forward voltage, mA, and #s of LEDs to figure out what the problem was and what the array should be. Turns out, somewhere along the way we miscalculated the diode forward voltage. Instead of having 2 series of 4 LEDs, we should have either 4 series of 2 LEDs with resistors, or 2 series 3 and 1 series of 2 with respective resistors. (screenshots below)。Instead of risking problems that could occur with this, we chose to simply make each LED go to its own output because the umbrella is relatively strong to hold the wires. We spent some time fixing this and the circuit worked. We just used 8 individual LEDs that connected all to their own resistor then to each other and then ground. The positive simply went to each individual input on the Arduino. To check the circuit, Sheryl prototyped a code and everything worked.
All that is left with the umbrella is to connect the bluetooth to the Arduino. For this we only have to connect it to ground, power, and two inputs (RX and TX) on the Arduino. We simply soldered everything from the Bluetooth’s leads to wire to the Arduino. We used a protective case around the bluetooth’s leads to make sure that we didn’t damage the device by soldering directly to it.
Cleaning up the Umbrella
I hot glued every end of the LED to the ends of the umbrella to secure them. I also wrapped the wires around the rods in the umbrella and secured in various spots with duct tape. This made sure none of the wire was visible from the outside because they were disguised inside the umbrella rods. It also secured everything so that there were no free flowing wires. I taped down the Arduino with duct tape. Because the battery is extremely heavy I taped it to the handle to make sure it didn’t break/weigh down the umbrella.
Moving on to the Earmuffs
The breadboard for the earmuffs was pretty simple. We had to transfer both bluetooth and a distance sensor to earmuffs. Here is the initial sketch we had planned:
First, we wanted to make sure everything works with the Arduino and later think of transferring everything to a smaller Arduino. The earmuffs we purchased were pocketed with a knit fabric on the ear so if needed we can hide the Arduino in with the stuffing. The distance sensor would be placed on top of the headband for the earmuffs to eventually detect the umbrella. We planned to place the bluetooth next to the Arduino to minimize wiring. It works exactly the same as the one on the umbrella. The Bluetooth works the same on the earmuffs as it did on the umbrella. There are two inputs (RX and TX) that need to connect to the Arduino along with Power and Ground.
Progress stalled by problems with coding/distance sensor
Before we could transfer anything onto the earmuffs we had to make sure the Arduino on the umbrella and the one we were going to put on the earmuffs are communicating with each other. Unfortunately, the distance sensor wasn’t sensing anything. The value it read was stuck at 255. It took a while to alter the code and see what was wrong. Carol ended up writing a new code that worked but the distance sensor was still extremely unreliable. A fellow ended up telling us that the reason why this was happening is that the distance sensor reads a value even when nothing is in front of it. We needed to consider this when writing the code.
Fixed! Now to the Earmuffs…
Haitian and I worked on putting the circuit onto the earmuffs. We put the Arduino in one of the ears along with the bluetooth. We then placed the distance sensor on the top of the headband and used wire along the headband to go down to the ear where the Arduino was located. The project looked like this at this stage:
To make it wirelessly powered we used a 9V battery which we just soldered to a power and ground we had going from the Arduino. The wires went underneath and across the headband not to interfere with the wiring that was on top of the headband. This battery is just placed in the other ear pocket!
Note: The items that are placed in the earmuff pockets do not touch the user because they are on the outside not near the ear!
To make everything cleaner, we wanted to place a fabric over the wiring on the headband. Everything on the earmuffs ear looked pretty neat so we left that alone. With more time, we would have moved to a smaller Arduino such as the Beatle or Lilypad. We encountered some difficulty soldering to the distance sensor and the bluetooth because of the tiny leads but after several tries we were eventually successful. Haitian wanted to secure the distance sensor onto the earmuffs before covering it. To make a protective wing she placed crumpled up newspaper underneath of where the leads were and then covered it with two fabrics that were then sewed together.
Testing out the interaction!
We tried out the interaction several times before getting to the performance work. We encountered some problems, needing to change trig and echo to each have their own inputs instead of sharing one. We also needed to change the 9V battery which could have been the root cause for why the distance sensor wasn’t working. The soldering on the bluetooth kept on disconnecting so Haitian and I had to re-solder it back together several times. Eventually we were able to get through these minor problems and adjusted the code to finally make everything work. Sheryl adjusted the code to make the lights twinkle as well.
The Whole Shebang:
We performed the piece in one of the IMA rooms with the projector on to set the scene of a rainy day. All lights were off and the blinds closed to emphasize the lights on the umbrella and the spotlight on person B. I edited the video on iMovie into black and white and doubled up the sound. Here is the whole thing put together 🙂 (play in 1080p)!!