Student work Tangible stories


When we are telling a story, objects around us may enter the narrative and help a lot in the interaction with animated characters on screen. In this project built for a class at the MIT Media Lab, I imagined a way to use everyday objects as aid in a narrative built with an animated character that reacts to voice commands.

Tools and materials: Java for Android, html with svg animation, conductive ink circuit and Arduino.



The idea started from an experiment with conductive ink. I borrowed silver ink from a friend at the Media Lab and connected the circuit to an arduino, building a simple capacitive sensor. I tested different resistors to find a resolution that would allow me to detect proximity to objects before the actual touch.

Then I started to plan the animation by thinking of a short story for the demo and drawing a character that could have simple animations done with svg, html and javascript.

To represent the idea, I thought of a genie that would be bound to an object, reacting to interactions with it. I then tested expressions in simple illustrations that could show character's emotions.

In order to connect the circuit to an Android device where the character would appear, I used a small bluetooth module and coded a java application that would receive the signals from Arduino. The application was installed in Android.

I then programmed the reactions to certain phrases or cue words, but also the reaction to certain actions. For example, if you shake the bottle over a surface where conductive ink was applied, this movement is detected and the signal sent to the Android app, which in turn makes the character "wake up".

This project was done as an assignment for the "Magic as Interface" class at the Media Lab