the universe
dec 2015


Openframeworks, Physical Computing
Arduino, Flex sensor, Photo resistor


My initial idea was to create a therapeutic breathing exercise tool.
I tried to make two boxes and each one of them has small hole on the side. People can practice their breathing exercise with this tool.
When people exhale through the hole, it triggers an animation on the computer screen, which is made in Openframeworks.
And as hard as they breath it triggers different shapes of animation.
By viewing the animation people can enjoy the exercise and it will naturally help them calming the stress and relaxing.

First, I used firmata to connect arduino with openframeworks. And I tested the serial communication using flex sensor.

Unfortunately flex sensor was too sensitive that the value was very unstable.
So I had to map the value. Moreover the flex sensor was not as soft as I expected that did not really bend even if I blow really hard.

Meanwhile, I measured the length of flex sensor and tried to design boxes.
Before I actually laser cut the wood, I used black hard paper to make a prototype and tested if breathing works with the box.

After I tested out the breathing and the sensor with the prototype, I went to laser cut the actual box.
I cut out the star and the moon shape as a hole since I created  an animation based on night sky image.

In order to make two boxes with different types of sensors, I tried flex sensor and photo resistor to test how two sensors can trigger different effects on the animation.

Then I separated them into two different breadboards and attached them to the base of the boxes I cut.

And here I found a problem. First, the holes were too small that can’t effect the sensors inside the box.
And for the photo resistor, I tried to use soft fabric to cover the photo resistor (start with zero light),
and when people breathe through the hole it blows the fabric (more light) but since the inside of the box is dark, photo resistor won’t work.

So I tried different sensors to replace photo resistor, such as humidity sensor, photo resistor, and microphone sensor.

Here, another problem was that humidity sensor was not really working with breathing,
and also it is a digital input that can’t trigger smooth animation movement. Even microphone sensor didn’t work well.

Thus, I decided to move on from the breathing exercise tool idea, and instead decided to make a shake box.
It is a two people play tool that they have to shake the box to trigger the animation.

For this process, I sill used flex sensor and photo resistor.
And I added LED lights inside of the boxes to make the photo resistor work better, and also make the box look prettier.
After more experiments with those two sensors, I found the problems of them.
So to fix the problem, I put heavy ball on top of the flex sensor to make it bend more,
and attached the swing-like paper on top of the box for the photo resistor so that it swings whenever people shake the box.

And here’s the final outcome.

And people can use the mouse to drag the animation to view in different perspective.

While working on this final project, I learned a lot about sensors and serial communication, as well as the way of pulling creativity.