Introduction: THERO

About: Rotor Studio is the name whereby the artist Roman Torre + coworkers, work on artistic proposals around experimental industrial design and audiovisual creation immersed in digital culture.

First of all:
Our motivation to make this "instructable" is to share our knowledge base of two last years of intermitent work on the next project that we wanna show you. THERO as a concept borns as the winner idea of the grant NEXT THINGS, that LABoral centro de arte and Telefonica I+D launched for the international digital artist community from 2013 to 2018. Some time later we continius the work to do some public exhibitions but always we was thinking in the object as a funcional piece of speculative design, prototype or so one, not a mass production object. Please we will so grateful if this tutorial and the resulting sketchs on so many areas are interesting for you to create similar ideas or some branchs that be usefully to create similar DIY or homemade projects around the concern of privacy, internet security and design.

And of course...sorry for our bad English ;)

Let´s go...

Description / concept:
THERO as a concept tries to elevate the precious and sacred object of our digital privacy. The treatment given to the resulting object is artistic and precious in all moment, with a geometry and cleanliness reminiscent of an idol or talisman, which has a value above its material qualities. It has the value of freedom and the right to digital privacy. This piece opens a space for reflection, forcing the user to be aware of their data traffic in a (literally) physical way, in reference to the object.

THERO is presented as a heavy sculpture that encloses a device that blocks and / or encrypts our digital communications by direct manipulation of the subject with the object. Through a turn in its structure, THERO is able to manage our digital contact with the outside.

We believe that the presence of an object can give corporality something so abstract like the digital world, configurations and the consequences of its use. On the other hand, THERO gives us the power to have in our hands the key that closes the tap of this transit, and at the same time it makes that we have physical awareness in moments and uses of the network where privacy and anonymity are necessary.

Finally, with a simple gesture of direct interaction of our hand with the piece, the users can decide when we are and when we are not visible.

More details here:

Basic operation.
Basically, this piece is an access point in which we can connect all our devices, either directly through a cable connection or as an extension of the network wirelessly. Any flow that passes through it can be handled manually by the user simply, as explained above, by a rotating action of our hand on the lid of the object.

We tought four degrees of privacy, to being able to limit unwanted pages, to warn of unwanted devices that connect to the local network, to surf anonymously through the TOR network, etc … At the end of the development process, the idea is to implement a kind of API in which with simple Python scripts, you can configure the states according to your needs.

For now on prototype stage and without working propierly, we have thought by default in these three states:

0. Access Point with some security options (Check and alert new devices connected, etc)

1. Access Point with as Tor Relay (Encrypted traffic)

2. Access Point without social distractions (Block social websites) + Web server

Step 1: Design & Build Details

Inspired in our usual way of work with geometric elements, we had clear the shape of THERO from the beginning. We were attracted by the solid chosen ( Truncated cuboctahedrom ) because of its forcefulness and elegance and also by the different combinations resulting after to cut a small section and to turn a small percentage of their faces.

For the exterior design, we decided to work from regular and reproducible materials and we would carry out two versions: One of them is closer to a crafted artistic object and the other one ,cheaper (3D printing), with the intention of opening its design to the community concerned and could reproduce easily. Another important detail is that from the outset we have worked with the idea of removing the maximum screws, parts and possible elements so that all its components fit almost without any mechanical effort.

You need this tools for this step:
A workshop or place to do dirty operations (concrete molds)
3D printer (We was using a Ultimaker 2 and finally a SIGMA by 3DBCNTechnologies ( I <3)) Laser cutter (A big Laser cutter for external box 100w or so)

Handmade versión:
In the most handmade version, we investigate a methodology of reproduction from plaster molds in which we integrate a lost formwork (3D printing), which houses the electronics, mixed with the concrete finish that is the one that finally conforms the exterior volume.

You can see here a preview of the design process and making:

You here the repository with all the files for making and of course this pieces are not for production files (please, tell us if you dont find one part):

Step 2: Electronic Details

For this prototipe we are working with the motor (AX12 Dynamixel) as potentiometer, reading the position values from the UART comunication for changes in the navigation mode. At the same time as you can see in the demo video we are using the movement and visual signals (rgb led) as feedback to tell to the user where is his navigation mode in each moment. We have this tools to play and the main idea is that this system would be nice to configurate in any modes that you can think. Actually only have visual feedback from device when you change de side of the interface and moves to TOR mode when detect the mac code from one know device on the net.

Some examples or ideas that you can develop:

  1. Maybe we can do a function to recognice one determinate user trought a aequence of movements, as safe box combinations
  2. Or you can add some personalized movements and combinations when detect some users on the net for change the mode of navigation directly to a safe way.
  3. Etc..

First of all you need to read this usefully Instructable (I <3):

List of hardware parts:
1x Dynamixel motor AX12.
1x Raspberry Pi 3
1x Wifi Dongle (Signal extender)
1x Voltaje regulator (Step UP: 5V to 9V).
1x 74LS241N. (Driver)
6x Pins output/imput
1x Raspberry pi short female.
3x RGB led
3x Resistors 220Ω

Fritzing file:

Step 3: Software Details

List of ideal features (implemented as sketchs for now):

  • Read and move Dynamixel motor (UART)
  • Change GPIO states (leds)
  • Wifi hotspot
  • Change iptables rules (Linux firewall)
  • TOR or (VPN= future)
  • Check the network to detect Mac's addreses
  • Web server with wordpress
  • Config pages.

All the files + code (sketch !!!) :

A TOR setup guide (Spanish), based on this tutorial:

To implement the local server we have used more or less the following list of software and languages used:

  • Apache2
  • PHP5
  • MySQL
  • WordPress
  • Python + Html

Se server setup with a Wordpress + html & python script to config the device (wifi, whitelists, blacklist, etc). Only in (Spanish) at the moment.

Some links:

Step 4: External Details

As a "speculative internet object", we was thinking all the time on how we can integrate it in a home as daily present/future necessary object. We thought in the boxes for the transport as fragile sculpture on many ways (your sensible data inside, for example) or also for the final exhibition, we think in the futuristic home enviroment. Always working inside of the posibilities that bring the digital fabrication tools.

And thats all...We know that we need to compress all the steps but we present here a review of the work of two years and maybe there are no space here to put in a tutorial all the stuffs that we know now about how make this kind of digital design/ingeniering projects

Please, tell us if you have any doubts or there are something on this tutorial that you wanna know in more acurate way. We consider this "instructable" as a live-repository and maybe we will put here more info to complete it better.

Thanks to this amazing community.

Román & Ángeles