All posts by Yulin Lai

Dancing Little Man

I wanted to create a little guy who can dance to the music I insert, so I decided to use sound waves to simulate dancing arms. The sound waves are generated from the music file.

I tried to make a sound wave first. It didn’t look like a typical sound wave because I added color fill to the wave, and the stroke of the wave is white, same as the background color.


Then I managed to add two sound waves as the little man’s arms. At this point, I thought the motion in this piece might be a bit simple so I added dancing brows to the little man’s face. What’s different is that the eyebrows are controlled by the sound of the microphone input but not the inserted music file. The brows move not only when the computer plays music through the speaker, but also when there is sound outside the computer.


Prior Art for Final Project

My final project with Sama and James is quite similar to Dalziel & Pow‘s interaction piece.

The similarity between our project and Dalziel & Pow’s interaction piece is that we all incorporate video mapping in our storytelling. What’s more, we all need sensors to trigger different animations. Dalziel & Pow used force sensitive resistor in their piece. In our project, we decided to use light sensors as our major trigger.

Building Fake Dumpling for Final Project

This week our group decided to design the storylines for our final project and make some food samples for the installations.

We thought about using 3d printing for the food sample first, but it turned out to be too expensive for our project, so we decided to use clay to sculpt our food.

I used Super Sculpey clay to make a fake dumpling. 

super sculpey living doll

Of course, I didn’t use real stuffing for this dumpling. I actually wrapped a piece of tissue in this clay dumpling. The shape and the texture look pretty realistic. 

fake dumpling

fake dumpling

fake dumpling gif


Brainstorming for Final Project

  • Laser-light-activated instrument:

The instrument can be an electric board with photoresistors or some other types of light sensors built inside. People can use a laser pointer/pen to operate this instrument from a distance.

Idea #1

  • AR project–Stranger Things (ITP Floor ver.)

           We can 3d scan the whole floor(or maybe just a part of the floor) and reconstruct a 3d setting, the “Upside Down,” base on the reality. Then we can make this into an AR project so that people can explore the “Upside Down” of the ITP floor using their electronic device like iPhone or iPad.

  • Using multiple iPhones to create a path for a character in a game.

Idea #3

universe on canvas

I tried two physical controllers to tell p5 to adjust the radius and the position of the circles on the canvas. I call this Universe on Canvas because I want to simulate planets’ movements in an abstract way.

First I used the potentiometer because it’s the easiest one. Using the potentiometer, I could get the maximum and the minimum value of the radius and the range of the circles’ positions.

Then I tried to use the photoresistor. Everything starts at its largest value and then decreases proportionally to the level of brightness perceived by the photoresistor. However, I couldn’t get to the smallest values no matter how hard I tried to cover the photoresistor.

Here’s the code I use.

// Declare a "SerialPort" object
var serial;
var latestData = "waiting for data";  // you'll use this to write incoming data to the canvas

function setup() {
  createCanvas(400, 400);

  // Instantiate our SerialPort object
  serial = new p5.SerialPort();"/dev/cu.usbmodem1411");
  serial.on('data', gotData);

// There is data available to work with from the serial port
function gotData() {
  var currentString = serial.readLine();  // read the incoming string
  //same as readStringUntil(‘\r\n’)
  trim(currentString);                    // remove any trailing whitespace
  if (!currentString) return;             // if the string is empty, do no more
  latestData = int(currentString);            // save it for the draw method
  console.log(latestData);             // println the string
  var output = map(mouseX,0,width,0,255);

function draw() {
  background(255, 204, 0);
  var data = map(latestData, 0, 1023, 0, height);
  //ellipse(mouseX, mouseY, data);
  //text(data, 10, 20);
  ellipse(200+data, 210, 70);
  ellipse(100+0.3*data, 210+0.4*data, 90);
  ellipse(70+0.5*data, 160-0.2*data, 78+0.7*data);
  ellipse(310, 300-data, 90);
  ellipse(310-data, 20+data, 90+0.1*data);
  ellipse(170, 65, 100+data);
  ellipse(380, 210, 350+data);
  ellipse(0, 390, 200+data);


Communications and Cultural Evolution

Although communication systems vary with regional difference and time, the patterns in their evolution are always about making means of communications more universal and convenient. Communication is powerful when it represents people’s authentic thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t have to be in the form of words or texts. For instance, people hug each other to show love, care, and affection. The action of hugging is a universal body language. Even if two people are not from the same country, through hugging, they communicate the same emotion.

Since the emergence of social media, spoken and written languages have changed to a certain degree. Communication is also under a series of changes.  I think in future communications, abbreviations for more words and phrases will be developed, and emojis will be used more frequently as pictograms. Some more new words will be coined in the evolution of people’s communications.

Cultural evolution can take less time to happen than biological evolution. Take the 19th century Enlightenment as an example, it only takes people two hundred years or so to shape new mindsets. However, it takes billions of years for humans to evolve significant biological changes. People always know how to choose for their best and accommodate new environments, therefore, human minds are always quite flexible and malleable when it comes to new opinions or ideologies.

Rube Goldberg Machine-Group 4(Jeremy & Yulin)

This is the first draft of our group’s installation. Our group’s input is an activated fan, and output is a moving ball.

Plan A(first draft)

We tried to attach conductive strips to the sticky notepad like this.

Plan A switch

In this way, when group 3(Wuji & Tori) activate their output, which is a fan, the conductive strips on the notepad will connect the circuit. The notepad was supposed to be the switch. If the switch is on, the servo motor will rotate and push the ball to the next installation.

However, when we tested our installation, the strips on the notepad kept falling off, and the power of the fan is not large enough to activate the switch.

Plan A failed

Then we tried plan B. We made a track out of a piece of cardboard, and we used a small piece of cardboard attached to the servo motor as a door to block the ball at the end of the track. When the ball was stopped by the door, it would cover the photocell sensor inserted on the track. Because of the ball, the environment of the photocell got darker, and then the Arduino would turn on the LEDs on the breadboard and the servo motor to lift the door. The ball could then go to the next installation.


And yes, it worked quite well.



We are born with the ability to observe the world. Through our eyes, we see; through our nose, we smell; through our tongue, we taste; through our ears, we listen; through our skin, we feel. Our body is the most well-structured apparatus in this world. It carefully measures all aspects of our surroundings and let our brain to organize the messages it receives. While processing these messages, we reflect on them and learn to make decisions. Our body is the very first and most essential step for us to understand the word. Without using our body to feel the world, our thinking process will definitely be affected in a negative way or stay stagnant. Only when our body has the primary physical experience can we understand the world better using metaphors as a bridge. As mentioned in the article, “A Brief Guide to Embodied Cognition: Why You Are Not Your Brain”, people tend to use metaphors to comprehend abstract concepts, and “metaphors are more than mere language and literary devices, they are conceptual in nature and represented physically in the brain.”

I don’t consider thinking using only emotions as real thinking, because emotions can drastically affect our judgment. Rational thinking tells us possible results we may have when we are deciding whether to do something or not. On the contrary, emotional thinking leads us to do whatever makes us feel good even if sometimes the results of such behavior can be quite unpleasant. It’s good if our emotions are positive, but no one can promise that he/she will always be happy throughout the rest of his/her life. Negative emotions like anger, jealousy, anxiety, and depression will corrupt us if we only think emotionally but not rationally.

Computers can reach our emotions easily for that we post a lot of things about ourselves. I think attaching sensors(such as Apple Watch) to our body enables computers to reach both our body and our emotions. The sensors can detect our heart rate, vital capacity, pulse rate, etc., then computers can make calculations according to their vast database in order to figure out our emotions base on the fact that our body reacts differently when we have different emotions.

Lazy people’s led

My purpose is to make the led light up when the surroundings get dark so that people don’t need to turn on the lights themselves.

Video of the result–>  Lazy people’s led

And here is the code.


I classify the value of sensorReading as 5 levels of brightness in order to tell the Arduino that it should turn on the light when the brightness detected by the photocell is at, or lower than, level 3(which is a little bit dark but not completely dark).


media forms and universal machines

Compared to traditional media such as books and newspapers, computational media spreads information more efficiently and corrects errors more easily during the process of disseminating the information. For instance, if a published book is found errors in it, the only way to correct those errors is to publish a second edition of the book, which can be pretty costly in time and money. However, it is much easier to rectify an error on a piece of published news online. Just edit it and hit the re-publish button, then everything will be fine. Quick, easy and cost-free.

The audience can know the content of stories being present in front of them. But even if the stories are good enough to strike a responsive chord in the audience, the stories themselves can’t really get the audience involved. While in interaction, which oftentimes incorporates stories, the audience can be a part of a story and make decisions to change the story. It is always people producing and consuming all the media forms because they need those to gain and spread out information.

In my opinion, a universal machine is something that can store and calculate data, receive and send messages. Nowadays, computer/laptop/tablet is the universal machine. But there is no way that this type of machine can be universal all the time. As time goes on, the once-universal machine will definitely be out of date, because humans keep challenging themselves to do something new, and only new machines can address those recent human needs.

Mini Dumpster Switch


The LED light will turn on when something weighty is dumped into the mini dumpster(paper cup).

This is the design draft of the mini dumpster switch.


First, cut open the bottom of the cup (don't cut a hole in it)
First, cut open the bottom of the cup (don’t cut a hole in it)


copper strip
Then attach the copper strip onto the bottom of the cup
attach the wire
Attach the wire


Place the cup on a piece of copper board which has wired to the negative row of the breadboard.

And then, dump something into the mini dumpster(the paper cup)to turn on the light!

What do I look like to a computer

I always spend plenty of time staring at my laptop screen with a goofy look on my face. But I know, a computer can never tell whether I look goofy or not. To a computer, I’m just a moving image, or more specifically, a constantly changing data, captured by its camera. All a computer can do, as far as I know, is to convert whatever it sees to a set of binary numbers. To a certain degree, it reads me, but it never truly understands me. I have a bunch of silly photos and videos which document trivial moments of my life. A computer can never conclude that I’m a happy little idiot base on those things. Even if the computer can get such a conclusion, it can only be the result of analyzing the interaction between my friends and me on social media. It’s like when people see me, they can come up with an adjective to describe me, but a computer can only refer to what people have said in order to generate a descriptive word. A computer knows what I like according to my browser history: culinary tutorials, pet videos, sketches and paintings, 24/7 jazz&hip-hop radio…… In general, to a computer, I’m just a stack of moving colored pixels who’s into food, arts, music, and puppies. My characteristic is rather planarized at this point. If someone wants to know about me, he or she can only look at the labels which the internet has attached to me, but that person can never know how my personality is like in real life.
An ideal inclusive device that I can imagine, rather than a computer, would be something that not only possesses the computing and analytical skills of a computer but also simulates human’s intuition and emotion. These features will make this device a better tool for catering to people’s needs because it can understand people from a more comprehensive perspective. (However, this device can turn into a semi-human with a rational mind and an intuitive mind. It might grow a personality of its own, just as one of those rebellious robots from the Westworld.)