Telepresent Greetings & the Telepresence of Touch

Yesterday, we began our internal collaboration week. We were introduced to our groups composed of students from MICA, Willem de Kooning Academie, and Sint Lucas Antwerpen. We learned what some of each other’s interests and “super powers” are, so I’m excited to see how we can work together to explore this week’s theme: Sense of Connection.

Today, we started with a workshop from Paul Mirel, Engineer in Residence at MICA, about controlling our Circuit Playgrounds by writing code in Circuitpython.

Circuit Playground

There were some technical issues with getting all the applications up and running at first, but it was easy to follow along once we got into the actual coding. We progressed from learning the “print” function to making the circuit light up. Then, we were able to add in touch as an input to make the circuit respond with lights whenever we touched different parts of it. The Circuit Playground has sensors that allow it to respond to touch, sound, light, temperature, proximity, and motion. It has lights and speakers for output. While we were on our lunch break, Ana and I played around with some of the extra code samples that were provided to see some of the different combination options for inputs/outputs.

Ana Tobin testing the touch function

After our break, we split off with our assigned groups to discuss telepresent alternatives for common greetings. “Group 2” (the name we very creatively settled on) had discussed the intimacy of voice yesterday, so we talked again about sound again today. What if we turned off our cameras to focus on the singular sense of hearing as opposed to all of the senses you experience in-person? We found ourselves torn between discussing practical examples we could demonstrate over Zoom tomorrow (like tapping on our cameras) to more speculative ideas (like how could you simulate the ability to have multiple conversations that can be overheard in a physical room).

We experimented with bringing others into our physical spaces. It was an unexpectedly strange feeling to see other sitting in my bedroom, especially with a background of my personal mementos.

We had to end the call somewhat abruptly when the WDKA students got kicked out of their school building, so it’s not entirely clear what we’ll share with the group tomorrow morning. We are meeting before the second workshop begins, though, so I think we’ll get on the same page then.

I was inspired by the conversations we had to experiment with the Circuit Playground some more this evening. I modified the code provided by Paul to have 2 sound outputs. My idea is that the students from Group 1 (or “Spice Girls”) could press button A to hear their sound greeting. Students from Group 2 (or “Tequila”) could press button B to hear their sound greeting. These groups took their names from Zoom karaoke songs they performed, so I turned clips from those songs into wav files that could be played by the Circuit Playground. Figuring out how to trim and convert the sound files actually took more time than modifying Paul’s code to fit this purpose. Our group had discussed having the circuit be wearable as a necklace that would respond to body heat. I tried piecing together some code bits to have the circuit lights increase in intensity as it warmed up, but I couldn’t quite get it to work. I was able to find some code online, though, that makes a new light on the circuit light up as it heats up. It’s actually a more obvious effect than what I had in mind, so I think it will work better on Zoom. We’ll see if my group is interested in maintaining any of these ideas for our greetings tomorrow.

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