ITP Spring Show 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2-6pm & Monday, May 10, 5-9pm

Jennifer Ho

Jennifer Ho

A whimsical bubble maker that enhances the experience of making bubbles through technology.

Introduction to Computational Media,Introduction to Physical Computing

This project takes the real life experience of making bubbles and enhances it through technology by giving people the ability to make bubbles of various forms. For this project, a bubble wand can be dipped into one of three glass jars to select a type of bubble. Each glass jar represents one of three different bubble forms. The bubble wand can then be waved around or blown on to create bubbles which will appear on a projection in front of the person. Loud shouts or claps will pop the bubbles.

Fortunately, most of the knowledge that was applied in this project involved simply putting into practice what was taught over the course of the semester in Physical Computing. My research involved looking into the supplies and materials would best serve the purposes of the project.

The target audience for this project is everyone. I think that making bubbles is something that appeals to people of all ages.

User Scenario
The user will see a bubble wand in a jar and should intuitively know to either blow on it or wave it around to create bubbles, which will appear on the projection. Seeing three jars, the user should then dip the bubble wand into each jar to experiment with the different results.

My first steps involved experimenting with the construction of the bubble wand as it is the main tool for the interaction. I knew I wanted to incorporate a piezo sensor and some sort of accelerometer to address the two ways a bubble wand is usually used to make bubbles (by breath and by arm waving motions.) In the final iteration, the accelerometer was removed and two IR LEDs were incorporated as the tracking element. The main challenges were getting the wand to function properly while maintaining a simple aesthetic look with as little wires and evident hardware as possible.

This also applied to the box I created using the laser cutter. Three holes were cut to fit three glass jars. Underneath each jar, a smaller hole was cut to fit a photocell and a visible light filter.

I learned that sometimes the biggest challenges are not what I expect them to be. From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to achieve a certain aesthetic, but I had no idea as to the types of materials available or where to attain them. In this regard, tapping into the resources of the ITP list was critical and is a testament to the collective mind and talents of the ITP community. I also learned the importance of investing a decent amount of time in doing research and experimentation, but also to think ahead and order the materials and supplies that I think I will need in advance. Sometimes, this involves ordering more than necessary and can be costly, but is a worthy price to pay for peace of mind. I had ordered two very pricey accelerometers early on that I ended up not using, but another thing I learned is that even if I over-order, someone in the ITP community is bound to be looking for it eventually.

In terms of sensors, I learned that photocells are finicky things. The day before my final presentation for Physical Computing, I spent 2 hours trying to figure out why one of my three photocells was giving me jumpy readings. In desperation, I decided to unplug my Arduino and re-upload the exact same code. Problem solved. I discovered that technology is not perfect and the solution is sometimes not very logical.