Archive for September, 2011

What are the sensors in my neighborhood?

This weekend while taking the subway I noticed a number of physical sensors that I didn’t notice before.


This particular button is not common in New York well at least I haven’t seen much of it in Manhattan. But pressing this button will tell the traffic signal light that there is a pedestrian who wants to cross and the light will change shortly afterward. But then again, it could be a placebo effect, giving the user the illusion that the light will change soon but in reality, it’ll change when the program tells it to change.


Here’s a light that doesn’t have a sensor but in my opinion needs one. I see three different sensors that could work here. One is light sensor, which would tell the streetlight to turn off once it detects a particular amount of light (supposedly sunlight) to detrmine it’s on and off. Another is solar panels so it’s not too bad that the light is on all the time since the light is powered by solar energy. Then the third sensor would be the exisiting sensor which is based on time. Much like water sprinkers, these are set on a timer where the on and off is determined by a timer on the switch.


The Metrocard machine is a plethora of sensors. There are the input buttons on the touchscreen. There’s the numeric keypad for credit card and debit card holders to enter their information. The coin and bill sensors that determine US legal tender is being inserted into the machine. The braile pads that help the blind in getting their passes. And then of course the Metrocard slot where the machine either accepts or dispenses the card and reads how much is left on the card.


Of course what’s a Metrocard without the sensor that you use it on. Other cities such as Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong and London use RFID cards instead of the magnetic strip that the NYC transit system uses. I first used the Metrocard in 2002. I was used to the tokens all this time that it took a while to figure out which direction the magnetic swipe had to be for it to work.


I’m not sure if it can be seen here but I suspect the subway is outiftted with all sorts of sensors. Most of it detecting the position of the trains. This particular sensor at the station, I guess that sensor tells all the other trains along the line that there is a train present at this station and informs the other stations down the line with the announcement ” There is a Manhattan bound train one station station away.”

I saw this at church today. This emergency light has an electrical sensor. In the event of a power outage, these lights turn on.


These exterior lights can be switched to detect motion in the event someone walks in front of the range of the sensor. This is great at night so you don’t have the light on all the time.


At the MOMA there is this device. Though not part of the installation but still has the “do not touch” warning next to it, I could guess that thsese are motion sensors that detects the presence of someone in front of the display. This is only present on displays that use a monitor and will then play the video once there’s a person in front of the display.



The displays are each identified with QR codes which directly links the viewer to a website with more information about the artwork. Of course in order to read this, your smartphone should have a QR reader.

Barcodes on everything is no different. These help stores and companies track inventory as well as make purchases accurate and efficient at the checkout counter.

If I see anything more before Wednesday, I’ll update this post.

Website design analysis

For the first homework for CommLab, I’ve selected a local Philippine news website for analysis.

“” is the news website of the television station TV5. After being recently acquired two years ago, they have yet to establish as webpresence as a news organization. Most Filipinos get their online news from three major websites which makes everything they’re doing is like starting out from scratch and build their audience from there.


This is the front page of the website. The headline encompasses the center but highlights features such the 9/11 article and the attacks in Afghanistan.


Using a single grid to line everything up nice and tidy, the user doesn’t need to worry which one to look at first as it is presented in a very linear fashion.


It shows in both the negative and positive space that every pixel on the site is used thus giving it the image of being very clean and professional as a news site should be.



The color selection is kept to three main colors which is the color of their logo using RED, WHITE and BLACK. The only deviations from these colors occur in the images that link to microsites from the main site. Fonts are pretty much kept to sans serif fonts and limiting it to 3 an again, deviations only occur in links and images that lead to microsites.


As we scroll down, the page splits into a three column setup which then the user has the option to decide which to read first. Due to the tightness of layout, it still remains clean but a bit confusing on where to go next unless you already know what you’re looking for. The splits in page are interesting to note as they occur at a page break if your monitor is set at 1024 x 768 which doesn’t make it jarring for the user.



Scrolling even further the site adjusts to the 3 column layout to ben evenly spaced. I feel like this page was intended for a tablet due to the large space devoted to the commentary pages and more microsites.


Still it maintains the tightness of the layout as well as the solid space that it’s occupying.

Screen Shot 2011-09-13 at 2.33.38 PM


So how does the “Interaksyon” website fare? Direct to the point, concise and not a waste of space. It both functionally serves the the quick access to news part, which is important to the user. One does not need to find the headline nested beneath at least two more clicks. It shows practically everything on the front page but if the headlines aren’t for you, you can just easily click on the menus on top or just scoll down. Very easy to navigate.



Talk to Me @ MOMA

The “Talk to Me” exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York is appropriate for the timing of the show and the scope that it shows. The show in my opinion basically conveys, everything is interactive.


Even though everything is interactive, there are varying degrees of interactivity. Some installations required you to actually touch the display in order to see the “magic” that occurs, others were visual displays of the results of the device created.


But as static some displays were, the exhibition itself had a degree of interaction from the mere scanning of a QR code in order to get more information about the work.


But now what if these codes were ported elserwhere.


I would describe interactivity as both parties to the action are aware that there is a response being waited upon each action compared to the idea where a static work such as a book.

Even though we interact with the book by reading it and reacting to the words on the page, it’s not interactive. It’s participation. The book does not expect a response from the reader nor does it care (Crawford 2003).

The museum experience is usually participatory as we willingly enter and absorb the works that stand before us. Like Monet’s “Water Lilies”, the benches that sit before it on the 5th floor of the MOMA invite the visitor to sit in front of the installation and look at the painting.

This is in stark contrast to the “Talk to Me’ exhibit.

I believe interactivity is where the work is complete once the intended user completes the cycle to which the art is represented. I see it very evident in the augmented reality works. They may range from the QR code in the field (pictured above) or the fact that USB ports stuck on the wall invite users to stick their computers next to it to download an image into your computer.




Roopa (@rouxpz)getting a virus from the wall.


The Hungy Hungry Eat Head needed users to hold augmented reality cards for the program to put animated heads over their bodies displayed on a giant screen for everyone to see.


Augmented (hyper) Reality : Augmented City 3D

Though these works in augmented reality were not interactive at the show, at the time of their creation to the public is highly interactive. Though I believe the Augumented City 3D is conceptual in its “Minority Report” likeness but everywhere. It shows on how the tech can take us in that direction.

But not everything on display was as interactive as others as there are varying levels of interactivity with the work.

The Bat Billboard I believe is one example where it is not human interactive but instead bat interactive. We humans just watch the response on the billboard to describe the actions of the bats.

I found the BBC Dimensions exhibit particularly interesting where it uses existing data such as the length of the moon walk by the crew of Apollo 11 in real scale or like how long the mars rover travelled. It gives us who are not involved in theses events but curious to know about the information a sense of the scale of these events were traced out to our neighborhood which brings it closer to us.

Of all the works I do enjoy the fact that LIttle Big Planet made it to the exhibit in comparison to all of the “interactive” videogames out there. I believe this is the closest to mass market interactivity we can get that is not essential as compared to ATM interfaces, metro and oyster card dispensers. The level of user intervention in the game takes it beyond the participatory nature of media and instead turns it into something else.

Maybe in the next exhibit we’ll have to redefine “interactivity” once again. But for now, the future looks promising.



Crawford, Chris. “The Art of Interactive Design” (2003) No Starch Press. San Francisco.



Christmas lights

There’s satisfaction to be had in watching lights blink especially when those lights turn on by your command.


The code is relatively simple enough now that I’ve had the weekend to digest the meaning of all these pins and ports.

//double lights green light and red light
void setup(){
pinMode(3,INPUT); //SWITCH
void loop(){
// if (digitalRead(3) == true) {
// else {
digitalWrite(5, false);
digitalWrite(4, true);
delay (500);
// }

Using the same setup but different program and allowing the “if”s and “else” commands, this tells the chip to perfrom an action that will respond differently. In this case, when the switch is pressed the light will either be switched between red and green.

Feeling a little bold, I added more lights.

Trying something out

I wanted to get the switch to cascade the lights using the code below but it seemed that it wasn’t reacting to the switch and thus acting on switching the lights on it’s own. I’ll work on it some more.

//christmas lights
void setup(){
pinMode(9,INPUT); //SWITCH
// pinMode(8,OUTPUT);
void loop(){
if (digitalRead(9) == true && digitalRead(2) ==true){
digitalWrite (2, true);
digitalWrite (3, true);
digitalWrite (4, true);
digitalWrite (5, true);
digitalWrite (6, true);
digitalWrite (7, true);
// digitalWrite (8, true);
//  delay(1000);
//digitalWrite (8, false);
digitalWrite (7, false);
digitalWrite (6, false);
digitalWrite (5, false);
digitalWrite (4, false);
digitalWrite (3, false);
digitalWrite (2, false);

Blink that light

We don’t give it much thought when we turn on a light bulb. For us it’s just a flick of the switch and that’s it! So it shouldn’t be too much trouble. Or could it?

I picked up the ITP PCOMP kit at the NYU Computer Store for around $93 including taxes. Inside it’s a box of chips, LEDs, wires, boards, cables and so on to supposedly help me make magic.




First thing to setup is the breadboard (that white thing above) and the arduino board to the plastic mounting. You’ll need screws for the arduino but the breadboard has doublesided tape.


No switches or anything just power up the LED using the microcontroller via USB power. Even if the kit comes with a 9V adapter, I think it’s safer using USB. You can’t accidentally burn out the circuits as the computer will automatically turn off the port if it detects a short.


What’s wrong with this picture?

The board via the PWR lead as marked by the red wire and inserted a resistor and a green LED. Obviously this wouldn’t work since the breadboard isn’t powered and there’s no way that the digital lead is going to provide power to the board.


Let’s get some power.

The Arduino app is another matter entirely. Even though the user interface is similar to Processing, some of the syntax and commands are similar to a point.

I used the code in class and replaced the port numbers since I was using different ones than the ones in class. I learned the important part was to keep it simple and understand the logic of the board and it’s there!


The trick to making the LED blink is all in code using the “delay(x)” .


The switch was more challenging than the earlier two.


Now this needed a little more patience since I was adding another item which is the switch that needed a separate command for the microcontroller to command.

I ended up with this board.


And there you have it! A working switch. I’ll toy around with kit some more over the weekend but it’s great building something with your hands or in this case my hands and the computer.