Final documentation

For my final project for Physical Computing, I combined it with my work for Computational Art and Design, so this is the final documentation for both projects.

I came to refer to my project as a ‘Visual Theremin’ as the theremin instrument was both the genesis and the continuing idea for my creation. The premise was to create an ‘instrument’ with which one would control digital visuals without touching anything. The physical component was fairly simple. It was comprised of two SparkFun distance sensors attached to a plywood base. The sensors were located on different sides of the plywood so that one sensor faced the ceiling and the other faced the left side of the space. To change the readings of the sensors the audience would use a hand over each sensor, varying the distance between the hand and the sensor. These distance readings would control separate elements of the visual component. To indicate and guide the audience’s movements, I laser-cut semi-circular grooves into the plywood.  I hoped to create a similar movement from my audience as that of a musician playing the theremin.

To create the visual element, I made a particle system using p5js. These particles followed a circular path while being offset by noise. One sensor reading was connected to the size of the circular path the particles followed and the other controlled the speed of the particles as well as the size of the noise offset.

Almost everything I learnt in this process was new. Both electronics and coding were things I honestly things never imagined doing. To go from making a static picture out of code to objects that could move and respond to unique inputs was something that made me very proud. Particularly when I started creating things that looked good. Learning how to create a basic circuit felt very rewarding and although I missed much of what we learnt, my head still felt full of new things. Learning about these things made me realise how much I really don’t know or understand about my everyday life and the interactions I make. My favourite thing that I learned about however, was the artist around the world (including Matti) and what they were creating. It was very inspiring.

I think I was quite hesitant towards these new disciplines especially electronics due to my nerves and this held me back a lot. Everything I did I was sure I was going to break everything, so I always wanted someone looking over my shoulder, checking what I did. I kept both components of my projects simple and often felt embarrassed that what I created was not as interesting as my peers. I felt particularly nervous when everyone was presenting, and I was starting to feel like people would be disappointed in what I made. However, watching my peers walk up to my project and interact with it and ask questions, I realised that I could be proud of what I’d done. I did something within my abilities, that I could complete within the allotted time and it worked. I know that I need to let go of a lot of my self-conscious tendencies and the space created in the course helped with that.

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