— AlexiaKay

Physical Computing

For my final in Physical Computing I decided to create an interactive wallet. I had this idea when I heard that  someone from ITP had lost their wallet and started thinking how many times this has happened to my friends and family. This idea of not being able to lose something has always been very intriguing to me because I have always been really devastated when I would lose my phone, my clothes, my jewelry, my money…losing things, especially valuable things is really a big problem and people want to feel safe with things that are valuable to them. Therefore, I decided to explore this idea of creating a wallet that has GPS and every time you text it it will respond with its location.


I took a piece of paper and started drawing and brainstorming on how I could add more features to my wallet apart from GPS. I observed peoples’ transactions and their behaviors while being in the cashier in several stores for several days. What stroke my attention was that most women were taking more time than usual to give their card to the cashier because they couldn’t remember if their card was in their wallet or if they had just thrown it in the bag. So I thought that maybe I could use a sensor where every time one takes their card of their wallet an LED lights up so you can always know if your card is in your wallet or not instantly without taking so much time in the cashier and irritating the people who are passionately waiting in the cue behind you.



During playtesting I really learned much more than I thought I would.  I felt a lot of enthusiasm around my idea and got a lot of great input.



LED Switch

So, I initially started doing research on how GPS shields work and what I figured out was that GPS works only when you are outside because the antenna needs to have a clear view of the sky in order to detect the latitude and longitude so I looked for small and powerful GSM boards that sent your location through GSM.


Fabricating the wallet was a really big challenge for me because I haven’t really built something physically since High School. I bought leather and used conductive fabric and conductive tape to create the circuit.

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To hide the cables, I thought that it would be best for now to just create a beautiful case rather than creating a bigger wallet and buying a smaller breadboard and a smaller Arduino. I had too many expenses for this project already…

User Testing


Code: https://github.com/alexiak24/interactive_wallet

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For my midterm project I chose to create an SMS controlled interactive pumpkin that lights up and changes colors according to the text it receives. I’m a huge fan of Halloween and always wanted to create interactive halloween props. The user will send texts such as “wicked” and “ghost” that will turn the lights inside the pumpkin to green and blue respectively. Through this interaction, I want to convey the message that it’s interesting how we are all connecting specific words to specific colors. It was really a very big challenge because I had never worked with the GSM shield before and setting it up and figuring out its functions took me a really long time.


After hours of trying to figure out the GSM shield, I connected an LED and tried to make it blink via text message. I was immediately relieved when I saw the LED blinking 🙂

However, the next day, I tried making and RGB LED blink and it was not working. My GSM shield stopped responding as well and it seemed like it needed external power. After hours of trying again with simple LEDs that were not lighting up either, I realized that the reason they were not working was that all the pins were being “used” by the GSM Shield. The only pin that finally worked was pin 7!

Panicked that I would fail my midterm, I tried using the LED RGB ring that works by only connecting it to one pin. I had to combine the example code from GSM Library and the Neopixel Library for the code to work. After hours and hours of changing the code and using some help from the residents, my LED ring was finally working. Moreover, I created some if statements for the pumpkin to light up and change color according to Halloween related words like chaos, wicked, ghost, scared and pumpkin.

RGB LED ring lighting via SMS from ALEXIA KYRIAKOPOULOU on Vimeo.

What I learned from this whole process is that you need to really do everything one step at a time and sometimes you have to be okay with just keeping things simple, especially in the beginning. Adding too many features, shields, lights etc. might just not work together when you are dealing with hardware. If you get stuck you need to go back and test things. Understanding what the problem is and where your code or the actual hardware gets stuck is the most important thing and needs a lot of patience!!

SMS Controlled Interactive Pumpkin from ALEXIA KYRIAKOPOULOU on Vimeo.


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Inspired by the ICM+PCom synthesis I wanted to create a coke piano since I am a huge fan of coca-cola. I used melodies from coke ads and coke jingles as well as the characteristic sound of a coke can being opened and poured in a glass. I sticked a pressure sensor on each can so every time one presses the sensor a different coke sound is played. Unfortunately, the sound that was playing from P5 was a little bit distorted and replayed the sound 2 times on top of each other. I tried increasing the delay and it helped a little bit but not completely.

Coke melodies with arduino from ALEXIA KYRIAKOPOULOU on Vimeo.

int sensorPin = A0; // select the input pin for the potentiometer
int sensorPin2= A1;
int sensorPin3 = A2;
// select the pin for the LED
int sensorValue; // variable to store the value coming from the sensor
int sensorValue2;
int sensorValue3;

void setup() {
// declare the ledPin as an OUTPUT:
pinMode(sensorPin, INPUT);
pinMode(sensorPin2, INPUT);
pinMode(sensorPin3, INPUT);

void loop() {
// read the value from the sensor:
sensorValue = analogRead(sensorPin);
int mappedForce = map(sensorValue, 0, 1023, 0, 255);

sensorValue2 = analogRead(sensorPin2);
int mappedForce2 = map(sensorValue2, 0, 1023, 0, 255);

sensorValue3 = analogRead(sensorPin3);
int mappedForce3 = map(sensorValue3, 0, 1023, 0, 255);


Link to P5 code

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Darth Vader Theme from ALEXIA KYRIAKOPOULOU on Vimeo.

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Apart from developing my first project with the traffic light (see below), I explored a little bit the FSR.













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This week my best friend came to visit me from Greece so I spent some time with her showing her around the city, going to different restaurants, museums, shops etc. So while we were exploring New York, I had this assignment in mind and tried to think more deeply every time I used a piece of interactive technology in public. One of the things that I constantly encountered and started noticing during my friend’s stay was the touchless faucets in every single bathroom I visited. This is something I have always been curious to explore because it really drives me crazy how bad my experience with this piece of technology really is.

Looking back, it is interesting to think about how fast and how drastically the design of such a major appliance that we use every single day has changed. I was inspired by the reading of Graham Pullin’s “Design Meets Disability” that recounts the evolution of the design of certain products and highlights the meaning of that evolution so I decided to do some brief research online to find out the history of faucets. According to www.deltafaucet.ca, faucets were originally invented with two handles, one for cold water and one for hot water. Their designs always varied from handles that you pull up or down, to handles that turn and to handles you simply need to press down. Later on, the single-handed faucet designs were introduced and after that the simple touch faucets as well as faucets with foot pedals were introduced. The foot pedals actually became quite popular for some time and then suddenly disappeared. Faucet designs really vary depending on the places you go and I really find interesting how the experience is different almost every time.

Now, let’s look at the touchless faucet that has really become mainstream and was developed to help conserve water prevent against the spread of bacteria that can cause illnesses. Even though I do believe that the touchless faucet was a great solution to these problems, I believe that the design is really flawed. First of all, I personally look down almost every time I am about to wash my hands because I am so used to the foot pedal faucet for some reason. I think it’s probable because they used to be very popular in my country in Greece.  Another problem is that I don’t always understand where the sensor is because it is not really visible in the sense that your eye doesn’t get drawn directly to it which is something that should happen instantly. Also, most of the times I am trying to find the sensor, I get my sleeves wet because most sensors are placed in the “spine” of the faucet which is deeper than the aerator (where the water flows) since the “spine” of the faucet usually forms a curve. I observed 15 people and only 5/15 could tell where the sensor really was from the first time. I noticed how most people would just put their hands under the tap, some higher some lower, which reflects that they are not sure where the sensor is and how it works. I saw how some people really felt embarrassed because water was not coming down and they didn’t know if they were doing the right thing or not. Also, some people (like me) would get their sleeves wet. Finally, 3/15 got it right the third time they tried and 7/15 got it right the second time. Therefore, washing your hands in public places has definitely become a bad experience!

I started looking at some models of different touchless faucets like the ones below. As you can see in the model on the right the sensor is not even visible.


I think that in order to solve this problem first of all people should know where the sensor is by making it visible. Another solution is to place a sensor around the aerator which is from where the water flows so they wouldn’t have to think about where the sensor is and also there would be no risk of wetting your sleeves because this would just be a natural part of the interaction people are used to and have been used to from the past. Simply putting their hands under where the water flows and everyone know from where the water flows. But I feel that really changing the location of the sensor and the design AGAIN might confuse people all over again so there really needs to be a visible affordance where your eye is drawn directly where the sensor is to solve this problem.


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This video is from the Friday PCom workshop with the residents. They taught us how to create this simple circuit using an LED and a resistor.

For this project I wanted to create a circuit with more LEDs and came up with the idea to create a traffic because they are such a prominent part of this new (for me) New York city life.


















I first created a traffic light out of cardboard and duck tape. Then I created the circuit and made sure that the LEDs fit the wholes of the cardboard and then I sticked the arduino inside the traffic light.































Part 2 – Traffic Light Gone Crazy!

Now that we learned about digital input and output I decided to continue with my traffic light project and actually make the lights change like a real traffic light from red to yellow to green. I started writing the code but then I decided to play a little bit with the concept of “delay” and create a more playful traffic light.


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In the “Art of Interactive Design,” Chris Crawford defines interaction as a cyclic process that requires two actors who alternately listen, think, and speak.  Crawford considers physical interaction to be a kind of a two-way conversation, a reciprocal process.

In “A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design,” Bret Victor talks about how technologists are so stuck on the visual, the “Picture Under Glass,” as he calls it, that fail to take advantage of the myriad capabilities of the human hand. He argues that human capabilities should be amplified through technology and not just become more passive and numb.

I like Bret Victor’s stance that we move away from a future vision that is largely “Pictures Under Glass” and instead, design interactions that engage the human body’s capabilities. Sometimes, we tend to forget that our bodies are such expressive devices that constantly give us feedback of our environment. Before reading this essay, I had never realized what a large human potential has been left untapped in tech!

What is good physical interaction?

Crawford touches upon an interesting point when he talks about the different levels of interaction. He defines what makes a “high” or “low” interaction by what basically makes a good conversation: listening well, thinking well and speaking with each other. On the other hand, Victor talks about what makes a “high quality” physical interaction and conveys the idea of our senses being triggered by each physical interaction.

Another element that I believe contributes to creating a “high quality” interaction, is an interaction that is engaging and feels relevant to each participant or actor personally.  In addition, what I would add makes for a “high quality” physical interaction is how much the actors are affected or manipulated by this interaction. Just like a conversation isn’t static or predictable; it changes according to what each participant says in return.

What about non-interactive tech?

Finally, I agree with Crawford that there are many experiences we think of as “interactive” that are mostly one sided. For example, when one uses Google Search he/she just types a search on the search engine and the computer is simply responding. It is not a two way conversation; It doesn’t push our human potential forward but, instead, limits our physical interactions and consciousness of the physical world we live in.

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