Field: Internet of ThingsPosted: January 20, 2015
Today we have started our new collaborative field project, my chosen subject being “The Internet of Things”, which looks at the interactivity in the modern world between humans and objects, as well as objects communicating between eachother. While this is widely known as the internet of things, this is evolving to become the “internet of everything” where almost all objects have intelligence and communication with the user and each other. This can have a variety of applications, from novelty and amusement to collection of data which allows companies to refine their services and resources. In terms of artistic application from what I have seen it seems to be leaning towards the direction of novelty, however it is important to remember that novelty has an important place in generating interaction and enjoyment from users with an item that is perceived as exciting and interesting. I think I personally would like to be able to create something which can communicate with the user and possibly other objects in order to create something with a sense of fun and personal connection, much as I have looked at in my previous projects.
Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos, one of the project leaders for this course showed us a live project that he was involved in by the REACT Knowledge Exchange Hub called the Objects Sandbox, which is a design competition related to the internet of things. One of the artifacts which has come out of this project is the “Breathing Stone”, which greatly interests me.
Unfortunately I cannot embedd the video into this blog, but I highly recommend you click here to watch it
The breathing stone itself is a handheld, screenless object which measures the user’s stress levels with a heartrate and breathing monitor, and responds accordingly with soothing glowing lights and ambient music. The music and lights adjusts dependant on the heart and breath rate, and aims to calm the user and reduce anxiety, which they will then be able to see a representation of with the stone. This very much relates to my previous Field project where I aimed to create an object without a screen, and this along a similar vein of what I aimed to achieve. While this object could very much stand on its own, the ambition is for it to have internet connectivity which allows it to communicate its data to chart levels of stress all around the world. However, I do have to question what exactly that achieves, and what the data is going to be used for. I find it difficult to believe that the makers of the breathing stone will be able to use the data in any productive manner in which they will be able to actively combat stress in a certain area of the world, and the ambition to fit each stone with 4G internet connectivity just seems like it will add complications and added price, without any real benefit to the users.
Another of these projects which is strikingly similar to things I have previously been looking at is “InTouch”
Again, I cannot embedd the video, but I recommend you watch it by clicking here
This also focuses on key ideas and themes which are of great interest to me and which I have been trying to express in my work, including in my previous Field project, especially looking at the use of haptic feedback in order to create an emotional response between people and objects, or in this case between two people through the use of objects. Unfortunately I am struggling to find more information on this project, other than the initial statement on the REACT website and various other sites, as I would like to know a bit more specifically how the object itself works in terms of how you interact with it and how it responds. I can only assume that the paired object produces haptic feedback of varying degrees mimicing the touch that the other person is making. However I would like to know how exactly it was then used, as it strikes me as being possibly quite a limiting tool of communication as it has only a small area to interact with, and how the two people are supposed to know to be using it at the same time without some sort of verbal or text based communication, which I feel might slightly defeat the point. But certainly very interesting nonetheless.
“Curpanion” is another project which I find interesting, although perhaps not quite so directly related to my practice, looking at enhancing the museum experience with added content through the use of RFID tags (radio frequency identification) embedded into physical objects.
If you’re interested in the video, click here to watch it
I think what I like most about this project is the desire to add extra content to museums, but without the use of tablets or smart phones which seems to be an increasing trend with augmented reality. Personally I have always found augmented reality to be slightly cumbersome, and not necessarily rewarding, as well as the problem of your focus being drawn away from the physical object and onto the screen, which begs the question why visit a museum at all? This system allows the user to unlock extra audio and visual content both inside the museum and at home, but with a physical object which is both functional as well as encouraging the user to appreciate the physicality of an object. I also think this system would be very rewarding for children who are interested in learning as they can “unlock rewards” online after a museum visit, giving them added reason to go and interact with the gallery objects.
Our lecturer (Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos)’s own project is called “The God Article”, looking at the Turkish instrument the “Ney”, which has much significance in the culture. While an important instrument, few can play it as it’s breath control is difficult, and Alexandros was looking to share and encourage learning through the internet of things.
By creating an open source, 3D printable Ney this allows anybody with access to a 3D printer to make their own. This will then be identical to the other Neys which are being played, allowing a fair comparison of data between them and more accurate teaching on how to use that instrument. This is a project I would like to be involved in, as I do have access to 3D printers in university, however my main barrier to entry is having to set up the data recording with arduinos and copper sensors which I wouldn’t know how to do without assistance and I cannot find an article showing me how I would do this. I suppose this might happen later in development, but even so I feel that would be the main barrier stopping most people becoming involved in this project. But perhaps I could talk to Alexandros himself and ask him for some assistance.
The other two projects don’t particularly interest me. “Fans on Foot” focuses on creating a wearable item for a fandom which guides them to significant areas of interest in the real world (such as Torchwood Tower from Doctor Who) and having the item look recognisable to the show. However it wasn’t made particularly clear exactly how this object would guide them to the area, and it strikes me that people who would be interested enough in the fandom to visit site specific areas would already have a good idea of where they are. There is also the question of how this object connects to the internet, and one of the posts from the makers reads “we could create a phone app and send out a pin badge to everyone who downloads the app. Functionally, this is entirely equivalent”, which seems to almost undermine their idea in the first place. Why not just have an app? While I certainly appreciate a physical object and merchandise related to a fandom, I feel like the functionality aspect of it is far more impractical than just having a smart phone app to guide you.
The last project “Reflector” is a learning tool which seems to be aimed primarily at schools in order to educate them further about objects that are on display and give them a wider background of knowledge before their visit to a museum. While I like this idea in principle, there’s something about it that just fails to grab my interest. Thinking about it, I struggle to see where the internet of things really relates, as it seems to come preloaded with the information related to the specific museum visit, and then prints out information in either a set or random order (this is unclear). The internet connectivity was mentioned at a point during the video, in relation to sending out information about ongoing dig sites and discoveries to reflectors all around the world, but that just seems to me to be an overcomplicated twitter stream. This also raises the question of whether these updates would be coming from a central source (one specific dig site or team), or whether everyone with a reflector could send out updates to every other reflector. This would result in a mix of information from lots of different sites, without the choice of what information you wanted to follow or not.
While all interesting projects I think my main issue is that some of them seem to have very little need for the internet or connectivity between objects and can stand on their own as independant items. I think going forward this certain has to be the focus of the artifact I create, rather than something that is shoehorned in as an afterthought.