The computer is usually thought of as contained within a box. We interact with the computer through a screen, a phone, a keyboard or a mouse. What happens if you break the box and bring the computer out into physical space? Tangible interfaces are a series of two projects that explore how physical inputs could interact with an interface that is typically digital. 
1. Part 1: "Phitigal" Space - Merging physical and digital spaces
2. Part 2: Heart Rate Light - A light that responds to your heart rate
3. Reflection
This project aims to create physical, tangible touch points out into the environment for the user to touch and control a digital space. The end result is a 4 direction floor pad mini game, but this experiment can become the basis for the larger idea to try to blend the digital and physical worlds. 
I started by experimenting with touch capacitive sensors with aluminum foil to create the physical points of interaction. Starting simple, I incrementally added more complex actions, eventually until I created a 4 direction touchpad to control a cube in a digital space in Unity. To further develop the idea, I wanted to use velostat, a pressure sensitive conductive sheet material, to broaden the physical touch points. Velostat allowed pressure from other objects (not just the conductivity of human skin as with the aluminum foil) to act as the sensor. 

Touch capacity sensor

Touch cap sensor to move cube in Unity

4 direction touch sensors

Pressure pad sensor

Fabricating the Floor Pad
The floor pad is constructed from foam core as the base, aluminum foil for the touch capacity sensor, and velostat on top as a conductor that transmits to the aluminum. Wires from each directional pad run to an Arduino Uno and reads the sensor value. Through the serial port, this data from Arduino is read by a Unity script and controls the position of the cube. 
Foam core, aluminum foil, velostat
Foam core, aluminum foil, velostat
Pressure pad sensors to Arduino to Unity
Pressure pad sensors to Arduino to Unity
Preliminary Model
As an introductory project to Arduino and circuitry, I wanted to explore creating patterns with individual LEDs. This first model utilizes 9 LEDs which all had to be individually wired. The frame is made from poplar and laser cut styrene. 
Final Model
For the final model, I used a pulse sensor to create a heart rate monitor using a LED and buzzer. Wiring and programming individual LEDs becomes clumsy, so for the final prototype I used a LED strip instead. 
The heart rate light served as my introduction to creative coding, and the "phigital" space project really challenged my computation skills. Through these projects, I learned that coding is hard. I learned to start simple, then to incrementally add complexity, double checking your code line by line along the way. But through my troubleshooting, frustration and hardships, I hope that these preliminary projects go on to inspire me to find more ways to design digital experiences that go beyond a 2D screen. I am greatly inspired by this presentation by John Ryan and Eric Mika of Local Projects, "Space, the Final Frontier: Designing Interactions Beyond the Screen". 
Moving forward, I would like to develop the concepts from these projects into a larger project. Maybe creating a large scale game and/or installation with a designed world and a story to follow. I want to continue developing my skills in Unity and couple it with my skills in 3D modeling to create a total immersive, extraordinary world that can be experienced physically, and possibly looking in AR and VR design. 
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