Introduction: Touch Communication
At first, my idea was to allow communication between my necklace and my boyfriend's. Squeezing either pendent would cause the other to vibrate. I wanted to create a means of instant communication over long distances. This desire started when my boyfriend studied abroad in Argentina for four months last year. Now, when he goes to China next month and I won't be able to communicate with him as readily, I want to create something that will bridge that gap. I wanted a small means of saying "I'm here."
While rigging necklaces to achieve this was not very possible, I decided to accomplish the same goal by having two boxes, plugged into a computer by a USB cable, going through Pachube.com, and responding by button pushes. Press one button on the first box and half of the LED lights will light up to illuminate the first half of the symbol <3@--- (<3) (a symbol my boyfriend would send me when he was abroad in Argentina). The rest of the lights will light up when the second person holds down their button (as long as the first person is still holding on to their box.
[Pertaining to the contest I just entered for the 3rd Epilog Challenge...I am an artist and have used a laser cutter (at my school) in previous projects. Even in the creation of Touch Communication I kept thinking of how much I could do with and wanted to use one (but for various reasons including access and time, I was unable to). I would use this laser cutter to create stencils, putting detail in my work, engraving various items for my kung fu school (it is amazing how many uses I could have for this!), creating 3D pieces by cutting them out and piecing them together. This would be such an amazing step up for some of my works (exacto knives can only do so much).]
Step 1: Getting Connected
To become connected, I decided to use pachube.com to connect to the internet and give my Arduino a place to communicate to and from.
I needed and signed up for an account and got my necessary API address...
I set up two feeds to send and receive information from my Arduinos.
Step 2: Arduino Meets Processing Code
I went to http://community.pachube.com/arduino/usb
and found instructions for setting up the code for giving/getting inputs/outputs over pachube by going through Processing.
I tweaked the code and when I was done I exported it as an application to go on my computer and my boyfriend's.
In my tweaking I added code for a line of six LED lights to turn on when the "button pushed" signal is given.
I also wired the board for six LED lights and two wires that, when put together, close a circuit and make a button/sensor.
Another extra bit of code came from designing a picture to be displayed when this program is run. I specified for a picture to be resized and fade in to focus.
For this, the software for Processing and Arduino is needed as well as three additional Processing libraries for the Arduino (Pachunio library, Arduino library, and EEML library), and Firmata for the Arduino (Arduino Uno comes with it installed, but if you load something else on to it, the Firmata has to be reloaded). (Everything was free except the Arduino hardware).
For Processing go to processing.org (Free software download)
For Arduino go to arduino.cc (They have the free software and links to buying the hardware)
To set up a Pachube account (etc.): pachube.com
For the three libraries and Firmata: http://community.pachube.com/arduino/usb/pachuino
Step 3: Setting Up the Arduino
The hardware includes 2 resistors, 12 LED lights, cables (4 stripped ones so the copper wire is exposed), and (of course) an Arduino and breadboard.
Attached is a schematic I made to show where everything goes and connects. I used Fritzing. (fritzing.org)
Step 4: Arduino Housing
Next, I fixed up two wooden boxes to house the Arduino and the lights. For me, I bought wooden boxes the correct size to comfortably fit the Arduinos and made alterations. Some of which included replacing the previous lid for something I could put symbols in to, cutting out holes for the USB cable to connect to, making a way to get in and out of the sealed boxes in case I ever needed to make adjustments, and painting the boxes.
To keep the glass in, I made grooves in some balsa wood, made a frame around a piece of glass (only 3 of the sides), and put little plastic stoppers on the other side so as to keep the glass in place, but that could be unscrewed if I ever needed to get inside the box.
The boxes need to be sturdy for travel.
Around the outside of the boxes are two rows of copper wire. When a finger connects them, a signal for "button pushed" is sent and half of the lights come on on both boxes.
The lights shine through the symbols "<3@---" on the lid of the boxes. This symbol has personal significance between my boyfriend and me from when he studied abroad for a quarter. It was fitting to include it in this piece.
Step 5: Final Piece
As the final piece, I push the "button" and half of the symbol lights up. If I release the sensor, the lights turn off, one at a time at a steady decrease of 5 seconds. This is to show the other person if they just missed the signal and (approximately) by how many seconds.
With the same features, the second box, when pressed (during the signal from the first box), will light up the rest of the lights.
As both sensors are released, the lights fade off one at a time.