Picture of Create an Interactive Living Wall
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This instructable was made as part of the final project requirement in the CS graduate course "Tangible Interactive Computing" at the University of Maryland, College Park taught by Professor Jon Froehlich. The course focused on exploring the materiality of interactive computing and, in the words of Hiroshii Ishii, sought to "seamlessly couple the dual worlds of bits and atoms." Please see our course wiki for more details.

Inspired by MIT Media Lab's "Living Wall", we created this interactive wall to imitate a living circuit at the University of Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Lab Hackerspace. Functionalities include lit up grapes, capacitive touch sensors to toggle lights on selected grapes, homemade butterfly speakers, and removable LED butterflies which we like to call butterflights!

Please keep in mind that this is a work in progress! We've been able to work out some parts of the wall so far, however this in an ongoing project that will hopefully be done sometime in the beginning of February. We wanted to offer the instructable community of how to do what we've done so far! :) I'll be providing updates on how to do each part once a section is finished. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below. We'll do our best to help out! Happy hacking. :)

A bit about the "why":

A project like this takes quite a bit of planning and customizing depending on the amount of space you have on your wall/canvas. You may find yourself changing certain steps, like the circuit diagram, to adapt it to your wall. The main idea behind this project is to merge the hardware and circuitry we often work with in the hackerspace with the outside world. Our hackerspace has windows, but these windows don't lead to the outdoors. So we decided to bring the outdoors...well, indoors!

Since the circuits looked somewhat like vines, we thought it would be neat to make grape vines out of the circuits, and simultaneously make them interactive. Fun!

You'll find that many parts of this projects were taken from open-source code, instructables, and tutorials from other people. We'll link you to all of these sites as we move along this instructable.

Let's get started!

What you'll need:

Art supplies (all can be found at Michael's or any other art store)
- Various colors of acrylic paint (you can customize this, but we used different shades of green and red)
- Small, round paintbrushes
- Modeling paste
- Artificial grapes
- Artificial grape vines with leaves
- Artificial butterflies (we used both small and large sized butterflies)

- ATtiny85 (1 for each capacitive sensor created)
- LM386 audio amplifier (1 for each speaker created)
- Arduino Uno
- Mosfet Transistor (x3)
- Voltage Regulator (x2)
- Heatsink (x3)
- Clear, white LEDs (we used about 155 of them)
- Various resistors (will discuss how much is needed)
- Various capacitors (will discuss how much is needed)
- Copper Tape (make sure both sides are copper; some have silver on one side)
- Copper wire
- Neodymium magnets, tiny(about 1cm across) and large(about 3/4inch across)
- 15v AC/DC power adapter (you'll need to strip these wires, so use one that you don't need for anything else)
- Audio cable (you can use an old pair of headphones)

- Soldering iron
- Solder
- Wire Cutters
- Wire strippers
- Some AA batteries for testing
- Painter's tape (we didn't use this, but it would be very helpful to have some)
- Hot glue gun
- Hot glue
- Pencil (one that can easily be erased)
- A good eraser (we don't want smudges)
- Scissors
- Paper
- Tape

schroedc2 years ago
Really neat, I'd love to do this in my daughters room! But, maybe if you spent the same amount of work you put into the YouTube "trailer" for the actual project, you'd have more to show for it ;)
lnorooz (author)  schroedc2 years ago
Thanks! I definitely want to do this for my kids as well. :)

Believe it or not, the trailer only took 20 minutes to make! We like to make demo videos of all of our projects. It's really important to have a visual production for the projects. But the reason we don't have more to show for it was that we needed to have this instructable finished for our course (first paragraph in the instructable) so we presented what we had. This is a work in progress, though. Hopefully we'll have more to show in the next month or two. :)
imbm242 years ago
I like the concept. You should try using conductive paint. Another idea would be to use very fine wire in some places so it is almost invisible. You could also make a matrix that you could plug your grapes into and depending on where you put the grapes, or whatever, different things would happen
lnorooz (author)  imbm242 years ago
Thanks for the suggestions! I really like that matrix idea. We're still working on this so I may try to do that.

As for the conductive paint, we actually wanted to use that originally instead of the copper tape. The problem with conductive paint is that it's very dynamic. The width of the line we paint, the length, and the dryness of the paint all determine how much resistance the paint produces. Since our lines were to be very long, we would have to make them veeeery thick so they wouldn't create too much resistance.

I think for a smaller project, like for a canvas painting, conductive paint would work beautifully. The fine wire would work well too, and we actually ended up doing that for some of the lines to see what it looked like. We personally like the copper tape better because it actually added a nice shiny touch to the wall. But we're still experimenting. :) I'll post updates on what we end up doing.
Was going to suggest the conductive paint as well, as that's what electrografs typically use. They also make use of magnetic paint however, that lets you attach your devices to your circuit without glue.
crich1 lnorooz2 years ago
I'm actually wondering if it might be easier to go wireless with this, certainly for the music feed. Of course the copper tape probably works better for the power, but you could eliminate one set of wires anyway with Bluetooth or WiFi.
tn.2 years ago
that is such a cool idea - it'd be wonderful for a child's room! could do an interactive star map that arches up the walls and across the ceiling.
lnorooz (author)  tn.2 years ago
That's such a cute idea :] A friend of mine actually wanted to do this for his kids' room. I agree, I think it would be a great way to get kids interested in technology and art as well as keep them occupied with something to do in their rooms. Plus it would be adorable!
tn. lnorooz2 years ago
another idea: create the "living" paintings from harry potter - get some LCD photo frames, doll them up with those huge fancy gold frames, and use the interactive wiring plus proximity sensors so when you approach a painting, not only does it animate, but other things happen - ie, you approach the mona lisa and the girl with pearl earrings on the other side of the room says "you don't want to talk to her, come and talk to me instead!"
chuckyd2 years ago
I can't find the part where there is something living on the wall.
What a neat idea! As a 100% non-engineer, I find this a most impressive and fun project! Thanks for sharing!
lnorooz (author)  threeoutside2 years ago
Thanks! I had absolutely no background in engineering, so this was definitely an interesting and very educational experience. You can definitely do it if you have the motivation! We used so many instructables, tutorials, and free code to get this working that we thought we'd give back to the community. :)
It's a treat. Have you tried it after dark? Does it look different at night?
lnorooz (author)  threeoutside2 years ago
We tried it with the lights off and it looked really cool! The really neat part was that since the amps for the speakers were hooked up to the same power as the lights, it made the lights kind of synthesize with the music. It's hard to see this in the second demo video we've got up there, but it's there. So basically the lights would kind of fade when the music had loud points of bass in it. That part looked reeeally neat in the dark! It almost became kind of like a music visualizer with lights that we created by accident. :)
ynze2 years ago
Like! Like a lot!

Lovely idea and a great first Instructable. Keep going!