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Tag Archives: experiment

Melvin the Magical Mixed Media Machine (or just Melvin the Machine) is best described as a Rube Goldberg machine with a twist. Besides doing what Rube Goldbergs do best – performing a simple task as inefficiently as possible, often in the form of a chain reaction – Melvin has an identity. Actually, the only purpose of this machine is promoting its own identity.


Yet another Rube goldberg machine but I really love the social media twist for this one.

For the last 2-3 months in the corner of my office a project has been slowly growing as bits and pieces ordered have been arriving sporadically from Ebay’s global sellers. finally, this morning I found an hour or two at work in order to make a concerted effort to get everything pieced together so that I could test that the project would work. The video above is a proof of concept for my first attempt at making an frustrated internal reflection touch screen table (FTIR). The theory is simple; FTIR works by shining infra red light into the sides of a sheet of acrylic so that it internally reflects around the inside of the acrylic. Internal reflection continues until something on the surface of the acrylic sheet disturbs the internal reflection and deflects the infra red out of the acrylic and allows an infra camera (bodged web cam) to spot the infra red thus detecting where the object is on the surface of the table. There are 100’s of articles on line about FTIR, all of them more concise and worded better.

As a first run I am very pleased with the results. Obviously There is still a lot to be done. I need to work on the rear projection surface and what is called a compliant suface between the acrylic and projection surface. The good news from todays experimenting is that i know it works.

Recently I have spent a considerable amount of time researching data visualization techniques using Flash and AS3. The main driving force for this research was to inspire first year Digital Media students without allowing them to be intimidated by AS3. To make the process of visualizing data in AS3 less daunting I have started writing a toolkit of classes the students can use to bypass some of the fundamental and structural elements of visualizing data. This way the students can concentrate on the creative and experimental aspects of the visualizations and achieve results at a much faster rate.

Here is one of the classes I have completed that I believe to be quite useful. The purpose of the class is to convert time into units along an axis. The class takes the start time and end time for a period of data collection and maps that across either the x or y axis. The class has a getPoint method which you can pass any time within the data collection period and it will return the point in pixels along the specified axis.

Once an instance of has been defined only two lines are required to start utilising the class for example:

converter.setAxis(“12:00:00”, // The start time
“12:05:00”, // The end time
“x”);       // the axis to apply the units to

trace(converter.getPoint(“12:02:00”)); //get a value along the defined axis

Anybody is welcome to use this class I just hope other people find it as useful as I do.  However I would love to know any improvements that could be made to the class and how it has been implemented.

DOWNLOAD class and examples

I didn’t want it to come to this! After many attempts to get the printer to go forward on its own accord (many resulting in ruining the control board and having to buy a new printer) i have brought out the secret weapon – ARDUINO.  I also bought a heavily geared down DC motor from Tamiya. These factors combined result in some serious direct to everything progress!

The video shows the printer stepping forwards at a pace set by the Resistance registered by a potentiometer. Later on the potentiometer will be very important in tweaking the printer so it outputs correctly. The DC motor has more than enough power to move the printer.



The black and red wires go directly to the dc motor. The power is switched using a simple transistor.

Recently I have been working on making a standard ink-jet printer free from the usual constraints of desktop printing. Looking at examples of direct to garment (DTG) printing and some of the ink-jet to 3d printer hacks out there i began tearing to pieces my desktop printer. The plan was to make the print heads as close to the bottom of the printer as i could. I also wanted to have the printer placed on wheels with the paper feed pushing the printer forwards. The result so far looks like this:


Although it looks the part so far it less than fulfills the part. I think in the build process i may have damaged the control board or something which is causing the results to be fairly unpredictable. I have been stressing and struggling with this thing for ages and have got any further. I was just about to abort the project when i started to look back over everything i had done one last time. What i realised was that although what i had first envisioned had not been realised some of the results were pretty damned nice.




I love Arduino it makes life so easy. Things that used to take quite some time and a good selection of components now really can be done in a matter of minutes. Take for example the flashing LED a simple and obvious task. With arduino all you have to do is press the + pin of an LED into pin 13 or arduino and the – pin into the ground pin of the arduino and there you have it. Well almost a couple of lines of code later and you are done.


Int ledPin = 13; // LED connected to digital pin 13
void setup()
{pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT); // sets the digital pin as output}

void loop()
digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH); // sets the LED on
delay(1000); // waits for a second
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW); // sets the LED off
delay(1000); // waits for a second
(snippet of code taken from the arduino site and is not my own doing please dont sue a poor student cheers)

Recently i have been wondering….. Is it all to easy. I can make arduino do these things so easily and yet have no idea how to create the same effect using actual components. I set out on a mission to create the flashing LED the old fashioned way. I found this tutorial which explains very clearly how to do it using a 555 timer IC. brilliant! half an hour later and the flashing LED mission is accomplished. All i can say is hurray for arduino life is so much simpler now.


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