Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Personal Space Suit

The Personal Space Suit was officially presented on May 1st, and later that week at the ITP Spring 2006 show.

I have included a LINK to the powerpoint presentation which hopefully gives you a clue as to my thinking and intentions with the project. At the final critique, I received a lot of interesting feedback, a few moral concerns but overall positive responses.

At the show, I received some negative comments such as "it's a mean project." Mostly, people wanted to own one for themselves to wear on the subway. It seemed that women responded more enthusiastically than men. No surprise there.

I will try to get a video up soon.

The Personal Space Suit was also featured online at wirednews.com. Here is the link.

Yo Taxi! update

The project is no longer in my studio; it is on a Fedex plane on its way to Pisa, Italy for the Viaggio Telecom 2006 Future Fashion event. I'm excited about the honor and very proud to be in such good company (Kate Hartman, Gracie Kim, as well as Despina Papadopoulos!) I only wish I could have fit inside that Fedex box.

For those of you who won't be attending, myself included (boo hoo,) I've attempted to make a video that captures Yo, Taxi! in action. The file is a bit big, but your patience will be rewarded.

Yo Video!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Nose to nose

Proxemics is a theory of personal space advanced by Edward T. Hall, an anthropologist whose work in 1966 was groundbreaking in the field of interpersonal communications.

Hall believes that although we all share the same sensory inputs, the way we process the information is culturally distinct. He maintains that we will adjust our degrees of personal distance depending on the social setting and our cultural backgrounds.

On a micro level, personal space is the “bubble” that surrounds each individual. On a macro level, that “bubble” informs how different cultures view the planning of cities, and how neighborhoods and streets are laid out.

Hall described four zones of personal space:
• Intimate space—the closest "bubble" of space surrounding a person. Only intimates are allowed into this space. (6-18 inches.) Embracing, touching, and whispering are possible.
• Personal space—this is the space allotted for close friends (1.5-4 feet.) Conversations of a personal nature, some touching but in a platonic way.
• Social space—this is the space beyond the intimate and personal in which we feel comfortable interacting with acquaintances as well as strangers. (4-12 ft) Ordering a coffee at the café, asking someone for directions, no touching at all.
• Public space—this is the furthest space beyond our initial “bubble”, where we feel the least in control. (over 12 ft) Riding a subway, sitting in a park, crossing a lobby…

Monday, April 10, 2006


latest servo prototype

is here:


Friday, March 31, 2006

Get your motors running...

Servo-Motor Prototype

To test the mechanical system using a servomotor as the means of motion, I first had to program a PIC 18F542-ip with a basic pulse width modulation program. To that I added a pot to stand in for my IR sensor. The pot makes it easy to control the servo, and therefore the action of my quills. The linkage is a bit kludgey, but I was able to get a good feel for the potential of the servo.

In comparison with the selinoid, the servo obviously offers a greater range of motion, but the conversion from rotary motion to linear adds a little more complexity to the system. I fear this complexity—it adds to the list of things that can potentially fail. The servo I’m currently testing with is also larger than desired, so I will be sourcing smaller motors, and Danny Rozin has graciously pointed me to some of his sources.

On the positive side, the ability to finely control the position and speed of the servo offers opportunities that the selinoid didn’t. Combining the analog input of the IR sensor with the servo, I can control the deployment of the quills to correspond to the interaction of the PSS and its surroundings: if the IR detects a slowly approaching person, the servo can raise the quills slowly; if the person approaches quickly, the quills are raised rapidly. If the person backs away, the quills can “relax” and lower. This might lead to a more interesting interaction, creating a chance to play with the boundaries of personal space. The servo also allows the quills to stay deployed for as long as needed; most selinoids have a very limited amount of time that they can be powered, therefore the quill deployment would be limited as well.

The prototype also revealed the limitations of my parallel plan concept for articulation. It might be worthwhile to investigate a hinging or axeled rotation.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Final project

I am proposing a garment that plays with our conceptions and perceptions of personal space. The garment will defend personal space when it is under threat of intrusion, questioning our notion of “ownership” over personal space. Like a cat raising its fur or a porcupine its quills, the garment will deploy an array of “spikes” to ward off invaders. The “spikes” both increase the physical space that is under the wearer’s occupation, but also serve as a visual deterrent to encroachment. The system will work by sensing the proximity of objects surrounding the garment, and will trigger a response when an object or body comes too close. The system will be based on a microprocessor, at least one sensor, and a mechanical system to deploy the array of spikes. At this point I have yet to decide if the garment will be comprised of multiple self-contained systems, or one large system with multiple sensors, and multiple spike arrays.

Videos of prototypes:



Sensors under evaluation:

Sharp GP2Y0A02YK — Infrared send and receive

Quantum Research QT113 — proximity sensor

Photo Cell – light sensitive resistor

spike subsystem:

mechanical –

Spike material —

Plastic brush bristles

Steel rod

Actuator –

Selinoid push

Steper motor

Servo motor

Pneumatic —

Spike material


Plastic sheet, heat-sealed

Actuators –

Selinoid valve

Air tank (air duster)

Compressed gas (co2 canister)

Air Bladder (inner tube)


Pic #?


9volt cell

Yo, Taxi!

New Yorkers hail a lot of cabs, and it can become quite competitive at rush hour when it’s raining, or late at night when bars and nightclubs close. This battle forces New Yorkers to risk their lives wading into oncoming traffic, frantically trying to get a cabbie’s attention. To give the stylish New Yorker the upper hand, I’ve developed Yo, Taxi!, a design that is sure to stop a Yellow Cab in its tracks.

Yo, Taxi! is a coat embedded with a persistence of vision display, shown through a single row of LEDs positioned in the cuff of the coat. When the wearer raises his or her hand and begins waving it in the natural taxi hailing gesture, the LEDs illuminate. The POV strobes in time with the wearer’s action, creating the illusion of the word “TAXI” floating in mid-air.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Carol Doda

As a kid growing up in San Francisco, I couldn’t help but snicker every time we crossed the intersection of Broadway and Columbus Streets. There at the corner stood a giant illuminated sign advertising The Condor, the city’s infamous strip club. The sign promoted Carol Doda’s Topless Love Act and there was an illustration of her and her storied breasts. The part that really got us kids going, though, was the red light blinking right where her nipples would have been.

The sign was taken down when The Condor was converted to a Sports Bar sometime in the 90s, and Carol has moved on to selling lingerie. But that image of her blinking breasts remains seared in the memories of all San Franciscans.

When I showed my soft circuit test to my girlfriend, she immediately grabbed the piece, put it to her chest and said, “Hey, I’m Carol Doda!” Thus I set out to pay homage to Carol and to San Francisco’s freewheeling past.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

1491 - 1999

1491 – Talking Knots

This was such an interesting article: imagine the history of an entire civilization locked up in a secret code, awaiting the right person to crack it. It’s almost too good to be true, so “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Where’s Indiana Jones and his fedora?

What I found surprising is that for years, we have thought of the Incan civilization as one that did not possess a written language. Yet it seems improbable that they would have been able to develop a far-reaching empire with massive architecture without some form of written language. Is it just Western arrogance to think of written language as something having to be transcribed/drawn/scratched onto another surface or was it the absence of a “Rosetta Stone” providing the key?

The other thing that was so fascinating is that Khipu seems to be a binary language, or as Urton puts it a “seven bit binary array.” It almost sounds like ICM discussion. The lesson is that communication can come in many forms, not just words on a flat surface and we have to become more receptive.

The quest for power – Stefano Marzano

This article is one of the reasons that I’m at ITP. As an industrial design student back in the 90s, I was well aware of what was coming out of Europe, in particular Alessi, Philips Design and the big furniture makers like Vitra. The Vision of the Futures project was a huge influence on me, changing my aesthetic sensibility, and more importantly, challenging my notions of what a product is, and how it fits into our world.

In “The Quest for Power,” Marzano continues this challenge. In addressing the need to move into Wearables, Marzano identifies one of the hidden truths of product design: that as designers, we are unable to deliver true “usability”. Yes, we can call our friends from anywhere, but we still need to carry the phone with us. Miniaturization has gotten us a long way, but we’re not completely liberated yet.

Although written in1999, the article is still relevant for Marzano’s call for “integration” has yet to be answered fully. Except for a few examples such as the Burton Amp Jacket, the worlds of fashion and that electronics have yet to collide. This sounds very much like the trend Angel Chang identified. The good news for us as designers investigating the possibilities of Wearables, is that there is ample room for exploration.