Author Archives: m.perez

Arduino + Adaptive_Kinetic Architecture

At the outset of our research, our group aimed to discover the capabilities and potential implications Arduino-based technologies could have on the Architectural practice and discourse alike.  In its current state, Arduino ideology is applied at a small scale amateur level, rarely seen in professional practice.  It is our goal to uncover ways in which the hardware, software, and projects can be scaled beyond objects, into real built forms.

Michael Perez’s Findings

Chris Popa’s Findings

According to the Italian based company ‘Arduino.CC'; “Arduino is an open-sourced electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-us hardware and software.  It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.”  The hardware essentially acts as a microcontroller that can be used to sense, respond, and control the environments in which the hardware inhabits; hence an interactive design tool.  It is the ‘brain’ behind any kinetic based project.  It does not have one specific function in a given design project.  It takes analog information and makes it digital to make just about any design fantasy a reality, and at a beginners level.

What sets it apart from other hardware like it is the fact that it is stripped down to the bare components to make just about any project a reality.  No prior knowledge is required to program and setup your Arduino hardware which is ideal for any experience leveled user.  The biggest challenge when dealing with Arduino is settling on which project you want to design first.

The projects that have resulted from Arduino are vast and almost always unique.  Being an open source language, many people post their work on forums and blogs.  This wiki of information has built up many communities, that are rapidly expanding each year.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Arduino-Projects/

http://www.element14.com/community/groups/arduino

Majority of projects found online are limited to single variable functions; each project has one goal and usually accomplishes it.  But this has no real implications in Architecture.   One of the most powerful features Arduino-technology has to offer is the ability to translate analog information into digital data.  By using sensors to read real world environments; sound, light, wind, temperature, angle, etc., Arduino can make that information readable and usable in a computer format.  This is especially helpful to architects and designers because the built environment could potentially become adaptive as well as responsive to a number of living variables.

A great example of this type of application is through the use of the Firefly plug-in for Grasshopper, which works in conjunction with McNeel’s Rhinoceros software.  Using real world information read from the Arduino connected sensors; designers can input this information into Rhino/Grasshopper models to simulate real time effects.  This opens up a wide array of information driven design avenues for a designer to follow, without the necessity for expensive large-scale mockups; prototyping on the fly.  This idea of prototypical design is where we find Arduino finds its niche in the practice.

Arduino is limited in most accounts by the scale in which the hardware and programs can be applied.  The “microcontroller” nomenclature explains the limitations of the Arduino’s capability to handle large scale applications.  While an Arduino can control a few input sources, a building would require a massive amount of information that would crash the controller.  Arduino boards are also limited to 5v output in most cases, which reduces the size of most projects that may require more power.  In order to achieve large scale applications, the Arduino platform must also be scaled.  We do not propose that the boards themselves become bigger, more powerful, and overly complex, this would completely go against what makes Arduino so unique.  Instead, the language and thinking in Arduino can be scaled for real world applications.  The microcontrollers are meant to prototype and test potential real world applications, which can be translated into large scale fully wired and mechanized projects.  This technology should be thought of as a platform for designers to launch ideas from.  By providing designers with real world information, sun, traffic patterning, temperature, sounds, etc.  the designer can become more versed with the environments they are designing and begin to tune the spaces to better serve their occupants.

What is Arduino?

What is Arduino?

Arduino is an open-sourced electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-us hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. – Arduino.cc

It is essentially a microcontroller that can be used to sense, respond, and control the environments in which the hardware inhabits; hence an interactive design tool.

What does Arduino Do?

So now you’re asking, what? What exactly is a microcontroller, and what does Arduino actually do? Arduino essentially acts as the glue to a wide range of infinite variables. It does not have one specific function in a given design project. It takes analog information and makes it digital to make just about any design fantasy a reality, and at a beginners level. What sets Arduino apart from other microcontrollers is how easy and dumbed down the hardware is. With the understanding that designers, artists, hobbyists, and your run-of-the-mill nerds do not have engineering backgrounds, Arduino developed a preassembled ‘plug and play’ unit for any experience-level user. They make the PCB (printed circuit board), wire the microcontrollers, input pins, and power jacks for you, no soldering required (DIY kits do exist for the electronic enthusiasts). All you need to do is think of what to build?

So what can we build with Arduino?

The simple but most accurate answer is: just about anything you can imagine. This sounds hard to believe, but in reality, there are very few limitations to the adaptability of the Arduino board and software. Being one of the most universal chipsets on the market, the Arduino board is compatible with 99% of the sensors available on the consumer market. The biggest challenge in an Arduino based product is coming up with what you are going to design. Here are a few examples of what an Arduino project might look like:

The Inebriator – Arduino Cocktail Machine

Arduino Router/Lathe

Textspresso – Arduino Espresso Maker

What architectural implications can Arduino have?

As I mentioned before, one of the most powerful capabilities Arduino has is the ability to translate analog information into digital data. What this means is by using sensors to read real world environments; sound, light, wind, temperature, angle, etc., Arduino can make that information readable and usable in a computer format.

A great example of this type of application is through the use of the Firefly plug-in for Grasshopper, which works in conjunction with McNeel’s Rhinoceros software. Using real world information read from the Arduino connected sensors; designers can input this information into Rhino/Grasshopper models to simulate real time effects. Here are a few examples:

Arduino + Touch OSC

Arduino + Firefly + Kinect Motion Controller

Kinect + Arduino Sculpting Tool

Arduino + Servo Experiment

While these examples are of a very small scale, the Arduino ideology can be scaled to architectural applications as well. The “microcontroller” explains the limitations of the Arduino’s capability to handle large scale applications. While an Arduino can control a few input sources, a building would require a massive amount of information that would crash the controller. Arduino boards are also limited to 5v output in most cases, which reduces the size of most projects that may require more power. In order to achieve large scale applications, the Arduino platform must also be scaled. I do not propose that the boards themselves become bigger, more powerful, and overly complex, this would completely go against what makes Arduino so unique. Instead, the language and thinking of Arduino can be scaled for real world applications. The microcontrollers are meant to prototype and test potential real world applications, which can be translated into large scale fully wired and mechanized projects. Here are a few projects that illustrate this point:

Adaptive Skin_ Arduino + Firefly

Aperactive_Arduino Light Aperture

Al Bashar Towers – Dubai

Visual Resonance: Popa/Perez Competition Submission

Popa/Perez_Niehoff Competition Submission

Video Demonstration

Schematic Concept_UTalkUC – J.C. Popa, M. Perez

The original concept of UTalkUC was a design installation that was meant to be interactive, informative, and an attraction for the DAAP program. Designed as an interactive wall, UTalkUC uses ‘tweets’ to negotiate it’s form.

Here’s how it works:
A tweet is sent to @UTalkUC.
A VBscript in grasshopper3D calls an RSS feed which updates the most recent tweet.
The VBscript then translates the 140 characters from the tweet into values, each value unique to the inputs of a standard keyboard. Ie A = 001 , B = 002, etc..
These unique values are then used as inputs for a grasshopper3D definition.
The grasshopper definition then outputs the information to either a firefly surface, or a kinetic surface that is controlled by an Arduino board.

In order to make this a more viable solution for the Neihoff Studio, we plan to program this surface to act as a “cloud” that is a responsive/adaptive sound absorptive engine. Using Arduino and sound sensors, the cloud will take on different forms based on the occupant noise levels in the space. Our goal is to create a kinetic panel that utilizes a folding geometry that will reduce ambient noise when in its “open” condition.

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Twitter to Firefly Demo

Twitter to Arduino Demo