Category Archives: Interaction

The Amazon Dash Button

Amazon’s branded Dash Buttons were introduced in March 2015, allowing products to be easily re-ordered with a single click of the battery-powered device – not to be confused with the unbranded UK AmazonFresh version (which works like a miniature version of the popular hands-free Amazon Echo).

As an inexpensive (US$4.99) wifi-enabled IoT device, in less than 3 months they were starting to be re-purposed. There are a handful of approaches, from fairly non-technical ARP probe detection through to bare-metal reprogramming. Amazon themselves are also reaching out to developers and smaller brands with their Dash Replenishment Service.

Getting started seems pretty simple – when you get a Dash button, Amazon gives you a list of setup instructions to get going. Just follow their list of instructions, but don’t complete the final step . Do not select a product, and just exit the app.

Most techniques use something like IFTT to connect the button event to a IoT trigger of your choosing. Instructables has a great step-by-step tutorial, and there’s some great open-source code available on GitHub.

Amazon Dash Button (Tide) on washing machine
The Dash Button as it it usually used - to order more Amazon products (such as washing powder).

The detailed specs:

  • The CPU is a STM32F205RG6 processor which is an ARM Cortex-M3 that can run up to 120mhz and has 128 kilobytes of RAM and 1 megabyte of flash memory for program storage
  • The WiFi module is a BCM943362 module which in combination with the CPU make it a platform for Broadcom’s WICED SDK
  • There’s a 16 megabit SPI flash ROM which is typically used in conjunction with the WICED SDK for storing application data
  • An ADMP441 microphone is connected to the CPU and used by the Dash iOS application to configure the device using the speaker on a phone/tablet
  • There’s a single RGB LED and a button

Quite powerful for US$5.

However, the next step in this evolution has just been released – the AWS IoT Button.

The AWS IoT Button is a programmable button based on the Amazon Dash Button hardware. This simple Wi-Fi device is easy to configure and designed for developers to get started with AWS IoT, AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon SNS, and many other Amazon Web Services without writing device-specific code.

Targeted at developers, this US$20 version connects to the web using the Amazon Web Services Lambda platform without writing a line of code (ok, so not developers then). However, even the “Hello World” example described here seems quite technical – in some ways, even more so than hacking the original (and at four times the cost). It seems to have three types of button pushes, though – short, long and double for more interactions.

AWS IoT enables Internet-connected things to connect to the AWS cloud and lets applications in the cloud interact with Internet-connected things. Common IoT applications either collect and process telemetry from devices or enable users to control a device remotely.
Miguel Chevalier “Magic Carpets 2016”

Magic Carpets 2016

Magic Carpets 2016 is a giant luminous carpet projected on the floor inside of the MK Center. This carpet is made of different virtual and multicolore graphic scenes inspired by emblematic forms associated to urban landscapes in Milton Keynes which are very constructivist. The artwork beneficiates of a musical display specially created for the installation and composed by Ray Lee. The technical production is by French firm Voxels Productions.

The visitors will be able to carry small aluminium spheres generating the music.  By using presence sensors the installation is interactive – in a visual way this fluent universe is impacted by the visitors’ movements.

The moves modify the elements’ trajectory under the feet drawing a new composition which remains stunning.  Like a giant kaleidoscope the spectator is immersed in a world of colors, moving forms and travels into an imaginary and poetic game of optical illusions.

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Can Buyukberber - Tool

Can Buyukberber: Physics + Visuals

Most recently known for his live Tool visuals, Can Buyukberber is an independent visual artist & director specialising in audio/visual performance, digital visual arts and motion graphics design. He studied Physics and Visual Communication Design in Istanbul, Turkey. Currently studying at San Francisco Art Institute’s Art and Technology MFA program as a Fulbright Grantee and working on immersive experiences using sound, light and space.

His works have been exhibited in Europe and Northern America including large scale a/v projects at Signal Light Festival (CZ), International Digital Arts Biennial (CAN), IX Immersion Experience Symposium (CAN), Currents New Media Festival (US). He is interested in translating observations and insights on the immanent intelligence of nature, self-organising systems, formations in time and patterns of the invisible space between the objects into visible, audible, tangible expressions.


McTrax: A Paper Placemat Music Production Studio

McDonald’s McTrax: Play the Placemat

Creating music can really trigger creativity in (young) people. That’s why McDonald’s in the Netherlands introduced McTrax: a paper placemat turned into a full music production station.

By the use of conductive ink on a piece of paper you can connect your smartphone to the placemat via Bluetooth.


The "Maschinenmensch" or machine-human (from Fritz Lang's Metropolis)

VR Storytelling as “Audience Experience”

To explore the audience’s experience in VR, Karin Soukup and Alexandra Garcia partnered with Stanford’s Media Experiments, the National Film Board of Canada, and independent filmmaker Paisley Smith.

Using low-resolution “experience prototyping” and extensively testing three basic scenarios, they attempt to determine the role of agency in VR storytelling. In doing so, they construct what may be VR’s first formal discipline – “Audience Experience” (AX).

Their top five takeaways:

  1. Reality is constructed (once the audience pokes a hole in reality, they have already fallen through it)
  2. Having a body means being somebody (there is no such thing as a neutral observer)
  3. Looking is doing (for better or worse, the audience directs their own gaze)
  4. 360° is less than 180° (the more there is to see, the less the audience remembers)
  5. 360° is more than full circle (the more complete the environment, the more it resonates)

Their conclusion? VR storytellers should be “matadors”, moving away from director towards influencer — waving the red cape to show users where to look. To do this effectively, we need to know their emotional, cognitive and physical experience: hence the focus on audience experience.


Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone

This interactive video (from 2013) is the song’s first official video. It allows viewers to use their keyboards or cursors to flip through 16 channels that mimic TV formats such as games shows, shopping networks and reality series. People on each channel, no matter what TV trope they represent, are seen lip-syncing the lyrics.

“I’m using the medium of television to look back right at us,” director Vania Heymann told Mashable. “You’re flipping yourself to death with switching channels [in real life].” Adds Interlude CEO Yoni Bloch: “You’ll always miss something because you can’t watch everything at the same time.”

The stations you can flip through include a cooking show, The Price Is Right, Pawn Stars, local news, a tennis match, a children’s cartoon, BBC News and a live video of Dylan and the Hawks playing “Like a Rolling Stone” in 1966.

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Keeping streets clean: vote with your butt

We all want clean and safe spaces around us. Public polling discovered that a staggering 86% of people think littering is a disgusting habit yet only 15% of us would actually confront someone and tell them that. Taking pride in the areas we live and work in helps to build better communities, and saves money.

This is why from May to October, UK crowdfunding network Hubbub trialled a new approach to tackling littering on Villiers Street, Westminster, using the latest thinking on behaviour change and awareness raising from around the world.

Hubbub’s 5 point litter manifesto:

We think that everyone can work together to make local spaces cleaner, safer and more inviting. Let’s all put litter in its place:

  • Government: Don’t loiter on litter. Create a strategy that has teeth.  Show leadership by providing or stimulating funding.  Engage with the signatories of the Litter Prevention Commitment and other important stakeholders to create a robust plan winning widespread support.
  • Businesses, NGO’s and Local Authorities: Act with a unified voice to raise litter up the agenda with government and the public. Share bright ideas and support innovative, collaborative behaviour change schemes nationwide.
  • Local Organisations: Work to create new coalitions, taking local action on litter. Business Improvement Districts take a leadership role and share results so that successes can be replicated elsewhere.
  • Media! You have a role too. Help bring this issue seriously back into public debate. Capture the imagination of the public, promoting pride in local areas.
  • Everyone: Litter is in your hands, and will only change if we change our behaviours. Let’s wise up and bin it. Taking pride in our neighbourhoods will save money and help build better communities.

Inspired to run your own campaign? Click here for more information on replicating Neat Streets.

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Werner Herzog Talks Virtual Reality

“I am convinced that this is not going to be an extension of cinema or 3-D cinema or video games. It is something new, different, and not experienced yet,” the filmmaker Werner Herzog said of virtual reality. An interview by Patrick House with the filmmaker about simulation and experience.


Giorgia Lupi @ Accurat

Giorgia Lupi is an information designer in Brooklyn, New York. Her work and research challenges the impersonality that data might communicate, designing engaging visual narratives able to connect numbers to what they stand for: knowledge, behaviors, people. She is co-founder and design director at Accurat, a data driven research-design and innovation firm. She has been drawing weekly data as 1/2 of Dear Data from New York.


ACPAD – the wireless electronic orchestra for your guitar

ACPAD is the world’s first wireless MIDI controller for acoustic guitar. Play thousands of instruments, trigger unlimited sound samples and effects, live record loops… without taking your hand off your guitar!

  • 8x Touch Pads: ACPAD has eight pressure sensitive touch pads that can be assigned to any MIDI intrument, Sound effect or sample that you can imagine
  • 10x Preset Buttons: You can also customize and save up to 25 presets for quick access during and between songs
  • 2x Looper Channels: There are two looper channels that you can use to live record, trigger or stop loops from your guitar
  • 2x Slider Faders: ACPAD also has two sliders to modulate the intensity of your sounds and effects while playing.


A Raspberry Pi powered Magic Mirror


Blogger Dylan Pierce decided he wanted to give someone the gift of a smart mirror. He went with an affordable, DIY approach and with just a little bit of coding and some ingenuity, he was able to make a mirror that’s got people like me drooling all over it. Here’s how he did it.


Design principles for reducing cognitive load


Every time you visit a website, a process of learning is initiated in the brain. Whether it’s the navigation, layout, or that auto-rotating image slider on the homepage, your brain has to learn how to use the site while keeping track of the reason you came there in the first place. The mental effort required during this time is called cognitive load.

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Wireless DMX Lighting Control Using Arduino and Vixen

A step-by-step tutorial on how to control and sequence wireless lighting effects – either for installations, displays, or wearable designs. It’s based on the Arduino board (or Freaklabs’ Fredboard) using Vixen software (v3). Everything you need – from scratch right through to code and working examples.


Pi Zero computer so cheap it comes free with magazine


The Pi Zero is a fully fledged computer which measures just 6.5cm by 3cm. Made in Wales, it sells for just £4 in the UK and $5 in the US. Raspberry Pi is also giving the device away for free with the purchase of its £5.99 monthly magazine, The MagPi.

However, it’s not the only kid on the block. The C.H.I.P. (from Next Thing Co.) launched earlier this year has a similar form factor and similar price. Here’s a blow-by-blow comparison – but it’s different strokes for different folks.

Either way, these sub £10 computers will disrupt many existing business models (and create a few new ones, as well).


Lytro Illum light field camera

Lytro’s approach to photography is to capture as much data from the field of light as possible – instead of focussing on one particular setup to capture the moment. The multi-dimensional image is captured with an array of micro-lenses. This wealth of data then gets translated to an interactive ‘image-scape’ where you can redefine the focus freely, as many times you want.


The mighty Joseph Kosinski invited Munkowitz to the GFX party once again, this time for his spring blockbuster feature film OBLIVION.

One of the most widely seen Graphic elements was Vika’s Light Table, which allowed her to guide Jack Harper through his tasks as a Drone repair man in the field of duty. The table itself was built practically, so most of the visuals were captured in-camera, lending a beautiful optical touch to the design.

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