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Computational Tinkering Mini Residency

Computational Tinkering Mini Residency

In October we hosted a residency for our friends from MIT to explore topics related to computational tinkering. It’s a rare treat for our two teams to play and explore together in person. During the residency we messed around with tools and technologies that combine computing with physical materials with the hope of furthering rough ideas and making new headway with current activities.

Homemade Switches

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We started the day with an activity called homemade switches. It may seem like an odd choice to pick an analog activity to kick off a computational tinkering residency. But for us it felt like the perfect match! We knew that there would be coding and screen-based explorations for most of the residency, so we chose to start our build time with physical materials. We aluminum foil, circuit boards and materials from our space to make unique switches with narrative or problem-solving elements. The experience gave us a chance to be silly with stories and messy with making.

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Check out the adventure playground Lianna and Jaleesa made!

Projection Play

For the remainder of the residency we explored different ways types of interactive digital projections. We'd been playing with projections in the Tinkering Studio for a while and wanted to push our ideas further with our friendly Scratch experts. One big question was how can we make digital projections more physically interactive? Our go-to high ceiling example was (and still is) teamLab, an technology and art collective that designs interactive spaces with projection. With their spaces in mind we jumped into new setups for projection environments.

One idea that sparked interest from the group was to try projecting on the floor into an inflatable pool. Steph rigged up a projector on the woodshop ceiling and used a USB microscope as a video input. It resulted in some surprising textures cast inside the pool and onto Lily. The entire experience was pretty delightful. There appear to be unique affordances for this top-down orientation. How cute would it be to have digital fish swimming in a kiddie pool? Or play with scale and take an up close look at everyday objects and blow it up to the size of a wall? It would be great to try something like this out on the floor with visitors in the museum.

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Making truly interactive projections has proven tricky with the tools that we have available. We got closer to this vision with a webcam, motion detecting Scratch blocks and a large monitor. It was necessary to watch yourself on the screen to interact with the digital characters, but the projects that were created in this fashion were quite playful. Here's Luigi with a project that uses green balls to fill in his silhouette. 

Ryoko designed a project with falling balls, it became a challenge to keep them in the air as Luigi demonstrates here so well.

 

It was such a blast to spend time with Jaleesa, Carmelo, Carolina, Lily, Yusuf and Kristin and continue thinking about computation and tinkering! We'll revisit projection play in the new year, hopefully with new orientations and interactive elements. Perhaps an infrared camera will make its way into our R&D, but we'll just have to wait and see on that one.


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This work was supported by a grant from Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation