At the start of the year I participated in the ModeLab Hybrid Prototypes Workshop. This gave me an opportunity to learn how to use arduino and its Grasshopper interface Firefly. Arduino is a digital electronic interface which is a beginners introduction to working with electronics. Firefly allows users to manipulate the input and output in Grasshopper and Rhino. This can be a powerful tool to create interactive projects.
Because the workshop was only for a weekend we were able to develop only some basic prototypes. We learned how to directly program the arduino board through an interface based on processing. This was then integrated through Firefly into Grasshopper. The possible uses are being expanded constantly with the implementation of web based sensor tracking and webcam monitoring. The overarching principle is that the more we can connect different devices and create inputs and outputs, feedbacks and interactions, the more our environment will move away from a static model and become a dynamic space.
I was interested in the possible feedback mechanism that could be embedded into the prototype. I made a simple canopy that could tilt and bend.
The tilting and bending were controlled by sensors on the underside of the canopy. One sensor measured the light and the other the bend of the canopy. These sensors fed information into grasshopper and that was then optimized based on a given target value.
This way I was able to control both the tilt and the bend based not on direct inputs, but based on feedback from the sensors. If there was too much light the canopy would lower, or if the bend was too much it would open up. As one parameter changed the other would adapt to compensate for the change.
The electronic setup and grasshopper definition were actually quite simple. The next step with this project would be to feed the input through grasshopper’s galapagos evolutionary solver and kangaroo physic engine. This would allow the prototype to self optimize for bending based on a desired lighting condition. While I was not able to achieve all of that over the weekend, I do hope to add both those tools to my kit to go along with firefly that was a great start. I want to thank the guys at studio Mode and Lift architects for the workshop.