The Dawesome Digest; a celebration of making from Brendan Dawes.
In this edition of The Dawesome Digest: fun with Internet connected conductive ink in Cincinnati, first gesture based experiments with the Leap Motion, hacking knitting needles plus the first prototype of a connected display.

In Receipt of the Now
I'm often surprised where a seemingly throwaway idea can lead to. It's one of the reasons I always advocate pushing your stuff out in the world no matter how half-baked it might seem at the time. You just never know who might be watching.

That was the case with the thing I was calling the Kennedy Project - the idea of pressing a button to mark a moment in time wrapped in the context of what was happening in the rest of the world. I did a small experiment and uploaded a video of a prototype explaining the idea to Vimeo. A little while later Hector Ayuso who runs the OFFF festival got in touch to ask if I'd like to develop those thoughts for an exhibition he was curating as part of OFFF Cincinnati. Of course I said yes and  got to work on developing the idea further.

Eventually it manifested as a piece I called In Receipt Of The Now, allowing visitors to the Contemporary Arts Centre in Cincinnati to touch a conductive paint button which triggers a printed receipt of that moment in time. The receipt is filled with details about the time of day, what the weather was like, a local news headline, a global news headline and finally a tweet about about the OFFF event itself. They can then just tear it off and take it with them as a permanent memento of their visit. 

The installation wasn't without its technical challenges, not least not really factoring in the difference in resistance a huge circle of conductive paint would have compared to the smaller version I built at home. Eventually though, after coming up with a fix, everything worked fine and in the first month there's been over 10,000 receipts served.

Here's some of the behind the scenes photos when I was putting it all together before flying out to install it:

Find out more at

Hacking a Wii Nunchuck to create a knitting game

I attended my second Ideo Make-a-thon earlier this year which was a lot of fun. The theme was Superhuman and our team's task was to think about games for the older generation and create a working prototype in less than 48 hours. 

After lots of great discussion we decided to augment the familiar activity of knitting with a device that can capture the movement of the needles and create a game out of that data. My role in the team was hacking a Wii Nunchuck to make a rough prototype, interfacing it to an Arduino and then in turn to Processing to create a very simple game. I'd never hacked a Nunchuck before but it was really easy to do; not only do you get a 3-axis accelerometer but you also get a joystick and two buttons - and you can pick these things up for a fiver! 

After hacking together the initial prototype I've since made a nicer version with the help of my Maskerbot and even tested it out with my five year old niece who really put it through its paces!

If you want to start playing with Arduino and the Wii, check out this link on the Arduino site.

Leap Motion Experiments

Leap Motion very kindly sent me a Leap Motion device to play with and over the last month I've been having a play with this cool little box that allows you to integrate gestures into desktop based apps.

It's still very early days as I play around with it, but I'm liking what I've seen so far. It can be a little flaky every now and then but the team are constantly pushing new updates to improve things. To be honest I'm still not completely sold on these type of things as interfaces. Yes they look cool in demos but day-to-day I'm not sure, not least because my arms really started to hurt after a while!

Anyway I've posted a collection of the Vine videos to show what I've been up to including video control, manipulating things on screen and control of Spotify.

Discreet Connected Displays
I've been continuing to make connected things with the wonderful Electric Imp, the latest of which is this connected display - complete with joystick - that will pretty much show any text based piece of information pulled down from the Internet.

The intelligence is all handled on the server using a custom made backend system that allows me to set what news feeds come in, the timezone, the weather, the type of clock I want displayed and the kind of thing I want pulled in from Twitter. The joystick allows me to move between those modes whilst up and down scrolls the text. 

However my fave part is when looking at the news headlines I can press the joystick and it will save the news article URL to my Instapaper queue so I can read it later. 

I'm interested in creating connected objects like this because I like the idea of defining their function through the air, in this case WiFi. I think there's a space between the lack of affordance of something like an iPhone and some affordance with an object  that still doesn't have its function entirely locked down. Besides, I like buttons.



Love this site all about how to create simple mechanisms for movement; lots of discussion of late on open source hardware so this SolderPad site seems very well timed to share open source electronic circuit designs;  loving the work of Junko Mori; the MoMA store now features the fabulous Little Bits; a physical representation of Nike+ data using Makerbot.

Until next time, thanks for subscribing and happy making.
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