Binary Face Off

Binary Face Off

Binary Face Off creates a space of creative competition and learning. Participants explore pattern, sequence, and sound in configurations that encourage gesture and cooperation. The piece represents the culmination of ideas learned from the Binary Glove and Binary Pad. The installation was part of the UCLA Design Media Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition: Tell Them Nothing of the Things I Thought About and Created While I Was Sleeping at the New Wight Gallery in June 2011.

The interface uses an Arduino board to communicate with game software written in Processing. The structure was built out of MDF and plexiglass using a router, pin nailer, laser cutter, some good friends and a lot of patience.

Binary Face Off 2

Binary Pad

Binary Pad

The Binary Glove was a lot of fun to play with—soft-touch sensors, very responsive—but it was a pain to get on and off and has really only been used by a handful of people. So I gutted it, swapped the FSR sensors for simple push buttons and designed an interface that would accommodate more people and a variety of hand sizes. The buttons are laser-cut and laser-etched. The box is simply wood sprayed with many coats of black matte paint. I also swapped out the LCD display for a simpler serial display. It’s easier to use and brighter, but the refresh rate is much slower than the one I had in the glove.

Overall, the interaction suffers compared to the glove, but I was very pleased to see so many people use it. The highlight so far was taking it to 64 fifth graders at Nora Sterry Elementary school and observing their interaction with it—well worth the effort. A few more photos here.

Vote for the Binary Glove!


Online voting has opened for FILE PRIX LUX. There are some pretty cool projects out there—including a nice piece by Eric Parren, an incoming grad to UCLA’s DMA program next year—so the Binary Glove can use all the support it can get. Voting is multi-step: unique email, skewed-letter entry, and confirmation email click… I guess it’s nice to know the contest won’t be spammed easily. VOTE HERE!

FILE Prix Lux

The Binary Glove has been nominated as a final jury selection in FILE PRIX LUX as part of FILE — an international electronic languages festival in Sao Paulo. The glove is one of 23 finalists in the Digital Language category. A jury will award prizes to 7 of the finalists—one of which can be decided by popular vote online starting May 3rd. Check them out, and if you like it better than the others, give a vote!

[update] The glove didn’t win, but many thanks to all who voted. Check out the winners.


Last October, David Wicks and I attended a Dry Immersion Symposium near Joshua Tree. Participants were asked to submit proposals for work based on the experience. In March, we returned to 29 Palms to install Trace: Resonance Field as part of Dry Immersion III thanks to a generous grant from the UCIRA.

David and I were both impressed by the remnants of activity we saw in the desert. Most of what happens there occurs unseen. What we experience are the trace elements of the past—snake tracks, cracked clay, burrowed holes, lizard poop, cracked rocks. Even a lush oasis exists though the activity of fault lines that bring water and minerals to the surface.

Trace uses Python to convert seismic waveforms from the mountains near Wonder Valley into data loaded onto an Arduino board. The board sends signals to small solenoid motors that strike a series of ceramic plates created by ceramic artist Elaine Hu. Participants walking though the installation experience a sonification of the seismic activity from the past.

The experience was fantastic and it drew a lot of local press. The Palms Bar & Grill alone is worth the trip, and hanging out in the desert with other artists—especially when they bring a dog—is time well-spent.

Flickr set: Dry Immersion III
The Press-Enterprise (+ inaudible video interview)

Sierpinski #2

A year and a half ago I heard Jared Tarbell speak at FlashBelt ’08 in Minneapolis about the circle and its influence on his work. One of his flash constructions caught my attention. It was a generative, cyclical pattern based on work by artist and IBM researcher Martin Wattenberg. Nodes turn on and off moving around a circle, then split and converge along a very specific bisecting shortcut to create a beautiful and surprising pattern.

I rebuilt it in Processing (view it here). After toying with it a bit, I realized the circle nodes can expand or contract based on Fibonacci numbers. The first I built had 64 outer nodes, but it easily expands up to 126, 256, etc or down to 32 and 16. Breaking each node cycle down further revealed an underlying structure related to Sierpinski fractals. It’s amazing how interconnected these fractal systems are—and nature is chuck full of them.

I built a kinetic sculpture based on the pattern. Hardware struggles limited the final node count to 32 without a shortcut—though the SSC-32 servo controller saved a lot of headache. After much time (and money), wrestling with servos and power supplies, the end result payed off. I have plans for taking this further and possibly making it interactive. The video is the second physical construction. The first destroyed itself when I turned it on.

Binary Glove

The binary glove teaches concepts of binary sequences and bits in a fun and engaging way. Each finger represents a bit value in a simple binary sequence: 1, 2, 4, 8, and 16. Pressure sensors in the ends of each finger register each bit as on or off. The sum of each active bit is displayed on the glove along with a visual representation of the current sequence. Five bits allow the wearer to create any number from 0 to 31 on one hand.

The glove has a learning mode for experimentation and play. Each number combination plays a different tone. Once the wearer is comfortable with the system, they can activate a game mode and test their skills. A random number from 0 to 31 is displayed and the user is timed to see how fast they can create the correct bit sequence.

Simple interactive exercises like these teach useful concepts that might otherwise appear too abstract for some students. Once the skill is learned and the pattern recognized, further learning poses fewer obstacles for the visual learner.

[update] The Binary Glove is a finalist in FILE PRIX LUX Sao Paulo.

Pet & Purr

One input, one output. The fuzzy box shakes uncontrollably when abused, but purrs when treated nice. A ribbon sensor detects touch types and sends signals to an h-bridge that controls a vibration motor.

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