My Brain and Nervous System

I've been continuing my work with the Franklin Institute further developing applications for the Kinect. One possible application is a projection of the nervous system on to the human body while also delivering content about the brain to the user.

RSA Animate - The Divided Brain

Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist's discusson on the left and right hemispheres of the brain are visualized by the RSA.

Storeface Elevator Pitch at Philly Startup Weekend

I attended Philly Start-up Weekend and pitched an idea. Even though my idea wasn't picked, it was an amazing experience that put my design research skills to the test. Watch the video for my pitch, more blog posts to follow.

Design Charrette 2011: The ShareBox Experience

This past week the industrial design department at UArts came together for three days to design, eat, and play. We broke into groups, undergrads and grads mingling. My group decided to design a system that provides communities with the ability to ShareBox. ShareBox would be located on street corners and would allow for people to place reusable items into them for the entire community to use. For example, people could put chairs, lamps, tables, tools, etc. Essentially, it's like car share for household objects and products. Watch the video to experience the story of ShareBox.

Show Me The Smiles

Beginning my research on interactive digital art and its impact on urban foot traffic, I prototyped and observed people reacting to Show Me The Smiles. As people walked by and looked at the screen, their faces were replaced with obscenely large smiley faces. Some people stopped to play and photograph themselves with a smiley face. Others walked by with a simple glance and continued on their way. I've posted some pictures from today's prototype in front of the UArts Terra building.

myFace: Interactive Art For Those With Faces

myFace is an interactive art piece I've been working on. It's been prototyped on the industrial design department's welcome screen and is now on display to the entrance of Terra Hall. More videos and pictures to come.

My motivation was to create an art piece that evolves and grows with each passing observer. I had also hoped to reveal people's emotional states when they do not have control over how they are perceived - an intrusive concept in this day of editable text messages and emails. This art piece has had a polarizing effect on its observers. One group refuses to step into the space where interaction occurs and the other group can't seem to leave that space. At the same time, this piece imbues the space in front of the screen with a digital memory, allowing observers to know who has passed through the space.

Internship at the Franklin Institute

While at the Franklin Institute, I worked on prototyping an interactive to teach children and adults about change blindness by having them experience it. There's a popular youtube video by Daniel Simons that served as inspiration for this project. Watch the video for a demo and enjoy the pictures.

Changing the Mall Experience

Building on last semester’s studio project, I’m exploring creative and alternative uses for retail spaces. Specifically, I will bring attention to vacancies within malls by intelligently attracting people to stop and engage with a space they are normally diverted from. An underlying goal is to prove that foot traffic can be retained near vacant store fronts with the addition of interactive displays.

Mall Futures - Redacted

A redacted version of our research and design solutions for solving vacancies that have been appearing in malls over the past decade and a half. An essay concerning my experiences while working on this design team can be found here. You can open the publication to take a closer look.

Robotic Head Part 2

This is an update on a previous post, the robotic head part 1. I added eyes today and stabilized some of the jittery motions in the neck. This project was particularly inspired by Golan Levin's opto-isolator and double-taker. Watch the video for a demo.

Robotic Head Part 1

I've finally gotten around to combining opencv, processing, an arduino, servos, and a webcam. I've placed two servos perpendicular to each other, and then mounted a web cam on top of that. As of now I've got the entire system zeroing in on any face it sees and then maintains that face at the center of its field of view. I'll be adding a face very soon, with eyes that will follow a person and eye brows to make it more expressive. Watch the video for a demo.

Tutorial for how to build a robotic head using opencv, arduino, and processing.

Tutorial: Using the Emotiv headset with Processing and the Arduino

You guys might remember the Mind Controlled Crane I developed. I've also put together a brief tutorial with source code.

There are three parts to this project: the Emotiv software, the arduino software, and the processing software. The arduino code I used is found here on letsmakerobots. I used processing to then act as an interface between the arduino and the emotiv headset. My processing code can be found here. I believe there are still some bugs in my processing code, but you're more than welcome to use it. The EmoKey mapping that I used for the Emotiv Epoc can be downloaded here. Since I used the free Emotiv SDK, my EmoKey mapping is really busy with key commands being sent to processing, and my processing code is messy and lacks comments.

I will update this tutorial once I have more time to sit and write a detailed explanation. For the time being, feel free to download my code. I will also try to answer any questions as soon as I can.

Positive Psychology

Martin Seligman discussing positive psychology and arguing for human flourishing by way of changing education, government, and our personal lives.

A Light Based Instrument - Prototype 1

Quick and dirty prototype of a light sensitive instrument. At the heart of the circuit is the 555 Timer IC. I originally built it with a potentiometer, but moved to a photoresistor to allow for proximity sensing of the hand. Watch the video for a demo.

A New Arduino Project

I just received my arduino mini 04 in the mail. There was some difficulty uploading code since this Arduino Mini 04 has the ATMega328. Apparently, the list of boards in the Arduino IDE doesn't have the specification for this new Mini. Fortunately, I found the solution in the forums. One needs to modify the boards.txt file. I uploaded the servo sweep example, and I'm hoping to start a new wearable computing project. I'll post pictures and videos as I have time to work on it.

The Good Ol' Days of Aerospace

It's been a while since I've been up to date with aerospace technologies, but this TED talk provides a demonstration of biomimicry at its best.

Collabritique Version 2

Having studied our first prototype in the context of Museums and the Web conference, Dominic, Nic and I have been at it again. We've utilized the Microsoft Kinect in developing our second prototype. A pilot run is set for the end of this month with the possibility of continuation with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

We've also put together a website dedicated to Collabritique. Enjoy the video of our first user testing experience.

And spread the word, Collabritique is here.

Electrofolksonomy: Museum and the Web Conference 2011

Electrofolksonogram (EFG) is the fusion of electroencephalogram (EEG), which is a device that measures brain waves, and folksonomy, which is a collaborative method to categorize content.

The EFG adds a new layer of information by recording the user’s engagement, excitement, and opinion about a particular piece of art. As a proof of concept displaying the potential applications of the Emotiv EEG, the data gathered from the EFG can be turned into a database in order to find correlations amongst large populations of people and to better cater to museum goers.

This was a collaborative project between:
Slavko Milekic M.D., Ph.D.
Benjamin Farahmand

Art Amplified: Museum and the Web Conference 2011

Art Amplified provides the museum patron greater access to contextual references for a piece of art. The use of augmented reality allows the overlay of a digital layer on the real world. This overlay connects the user to a wealth of contextual information. The power of this system lies in its ability to build on other systems, and thus create a robust network of information, which can be easily accessed through a variety of means.

This was a collaborative project between:
Dominic Prestifillippo
Nicolas Coia
Benjamin Farahmand

Collabritique: Museum and the Web Conference 2011

Collabritique brings people together in a museum space to create a dialogue and foster collaboration by providing the tools necessary to help them reach a mutually agreeable opinion about a piece of art.

In this way, Collabritique not only promotes interaction and fosters new discussions and critiques about art, but also highlights the inherent connections created when artworks are juxtaposed.  All this will provide a richer experience for the museum patron and a more satisfied customer for the museum.

This project was the result of collaboration between:
Dominic Prestifillippo
Nicolas Coia
Benjamin Farahmand


As always, the people at the RSA have put together another amazing educational video. This time they condensed and visualized a lecture on choice.

Interactive Motion Art for Active Territory

I was asked to put together a motion-based interactive for Active Territory, a design show for graduating design students at the University of the Arts. The piece welcomed everyone into the show as it was projected onto the ground by the entrance.

And a few pictures from that evening...

Museum and the Web Conference 2011

The recent Museum and the Web conference was a great opportunity to meet thinkers and doers that are passionate about technology and using it to enhance the museum experience. The projects I was involved with and demonstrated were well received. The following images and paragraphs captures the purpose of each project and its demonstration during the Museum and the Web reception.

Reception area with food.

My World's in RGB

A proof of concept that I can track three different colors at the same time. I'll eventually be using color tracking for an interface I'm designing.

The Shopping Mall and the Design Process

Approached by a certain mall developer, they proposed a project that would have the design team creatively re-envision the future use of the shopping mall and vacant mall spaces. Throughout the course of the project, the design team became aware of the client's self-perceptions, analogies, and words used to convey their ideas and business plans. While collaborating with the client, the project proposal changed. It now incorporated informational design of the client's business language. Information design, a human centered designer's bread and butter, is the process of making sense of the bigger picture and succinctly conveying these ideas both visually and verbally. In essence, it involves storytelling to persuade the client to understand who they are, what they do, and how they do it from a different perspective. The following paragraphs recount my experiences and viewpoint as part of this design team.

The design team's first step was to dive into historical research in order to understand the origins of the mall and the shopping mall as we know it today. 

Mind-Crane Game Ready for User Testing

I've got the third servo finally working and it's hooked up to my thought of "pull." So if I think "pull," it should bring the wrecking ball closer to me. I've added four more towers making the game more challenging. The video shows the rest of the story.

Painting with Movements

For a show that's coming up this Saturday, I've been working on a few pieces of interactive artwork. This piece is probably the most fun.

"Doing the Things a Particle Can"

I might not be a giant, or a particle man, but  I can come close with OpenCV and Processing. I've been working on this piece for about a week, and it's going to be used as an interactive installation. It's still a work in progress, feel free to share you thoughts about it.

Mind Control? Hardly.

It's hardly mind control because I'm using the accelerometer from the Emotiv EEG to manipulate servos in the wrecking crane. The lego tower that's on the board will rebuild itself if I'm too frustrated. The following picture and video shows the result of five days of work (more updates to come as I have time to work on this project):

2 Servos 1 Cup... and a Straw

I used Processing to analyze the accelerometer data from the Emotiv headset and then sent that data via serial port to the arduino. Finally, the arduino controls two servos sitting perpendicular to each other on top of a cup. The straw shows what's going on.

A Birdhouse Made For a King

What kind of bird lives in a cylinder with two entrances? We will find out as soon as I put it up in a tree between some branches.

Vertical Wind Turbine

About a year ago I prototyped a vertical wind turbine. It failed to work because the surface of each blade wasn't turning enough air. The turbine, even though it's plastic, ended up being too heavy. I used plywood for the base, which also contains the generator, and the turbine is made of styrene. Each blade was thermoformed to a curved surface.

Homemade Longboard

While in undergrad, I spent a day making an inexpensive longboard. I used five layer plywood and applied varnish. The board is five feet in length and reinforced with steel. The bolts double up as grip on the top side. Since I already had bearings, the most expensive part of the longboard were the trucks. The pictures tell the rest of the story.