Assignment 10b – No, *this* is the hardest part

Well, it turns out that using a mechanical mechanism to detach a throwie from a magnetic surface using a 3V coin cell battery is hard. Really hard. I suspect I could do it if I raised the voltage artificially using a Joule Thief circuit, which I just learned about recently…but last week, I realized that the hardest part is *actually* knowing when to stop, so you can still have enough time to make your point before your audience.

Let me explain – the point of this project was never to make a pretty art show using LEDs (although that would have been cool). I picked that scenario because I thought it’d be a fun, whimsical application of a larger area of research I’m currently involved in, that of personal urban (or public) computing. What I really wanted to explore was this question: What happens when anyone can create their own performances (or really, any sort of interactions) – cheaply and easily, with off the shelf technology – in public settings?

I ultimately decided that while it would be “heroic” to plod along and get a Floating Throwie kinda-sorta working by Wednesday, it would far more useful to the class and the audience if I created *alternate* examples of such computing – ones that don’t rely on experimental mechanisms to bring to life on demo day.

Thus, I present to you…the Motown Throwie, and the Ventriloquist Throwie.

What on earth are those, you ask? Well, they’re throwie circuits that use nearly the exact same electronics and code as the Floating Throwie – except that they use those electronics to turn off and on the electronics found in off the shelf Hallmark musical greeting cards. The former is built from a Motown birthday card, and allows you to place a device in a public space, run away, and then have it blast “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”. The latter is built from a recordable greeting christmas card, and allows you to do the same thing, except blasting a phrase or noise if your own recording. (In this case, it just blasts a whistle – but it can be re-recorded to say “Psst! Over here!” or whatever else suits your fancy.)

In addition to my final report, I intend to prepare an Instructable on the Ventriloquist throwie (perhaps rolling discussion of the Motown throwie into it), and also will be presenting a poster about the general topic of these projects and my other work here at CMU. I will also prepare an academic paper on my experiences to satisfy the 12 unit requirement.

Below you’ll find demo videos for both projects, as well as a draft version of my poster (on Scribd.) Comments on my revised final demo are appreciated.

View this document on Scribd
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