Media Controller: Brainstorm

This is an excerpt from our long brainstorming document for our “media controller” project (for our physical computing midterm). Authors: Cerrito, Ward, Wasserman.

Technologies of Interest


  • Arduino, and specifically I’m interested in the smallest Arduinos available
  • quadcopters, which are small, four rotor helicopters that have suddenly become affordable and hackable (but yesterday we found out they are not that affordable yet)
  • wifi Ethernet instead of Bluetooth
  • Raspberry Pi, a tiny Linux computer that can be powered by four AA batteries


  • Arduino
  • I’ve been kind of obsessed with the idea of the stretch sensor ever since Tom mentioned it in class – it seems like a really satisfying physical interaction


  • Quadcopters
  • Stretch Sensors
  • IR, laser, smoke/particle sensors
  • Game play
  • Frustration


This is just a brainstorm of different kinds of media, and ways to control media.


  • air
  • water
  • ink
  • paint
  • binary streams
  • paper
  • metal
  • ceramic
  • dirt
  • video
  • narrative
  • sound

Control targets:

  • writing
  • depiction
  • sound
  • music (e.g. composition)
  • tempo
  • speech
  • pitch
  • direction (e.g. switches routing network traffic)
  • destination (e.g. postal service)
  • movement (e.g. dance)
  • light projection
  • 3D printing
  • location (2D, 3D)
  • vibration/frequency
  • velocity
  • acceleration
  • buoyancy
  • electric current, voltage
  • musical timbre
  • color space
  • musical key / note space
  • rhythm

Inspirational Projects


  • Street Ghosts – this isn’t a physical computing thing, but I think it’s wonderful
  • I really like my Livescribe smart pen, because it acts almost exactly like a regular pen but does so much more.  I’m a big fan of making the computers disappear.
  • Matt Richardson’s Descriptive Camera blew my mind.
  • The Wooden Mirror blew my mind.
  • The Burritob0t is interesting, mainly as a recontextualization of maker/DIY tech in an unexpected place (food).
  • I’m interested in how devices like the folkBox can influence the sound of music, but that’s probably not something tangible enough for our project.
  • Wireless musical interfaces like the zOrb are interesting to me, though I haven’t seen many great interfaces.  Usually, they track position or use an accelerometer–neither is as expressive as the movements that the human body is capable of performing.
  • TweenBots investigated the way people interact with an object that expresses a goal

I tend to be interested in projects that involve a sense of play or discovery, and also projects that tend to subvert the normal expectations for an object or material.

  • I also really like the Descriptive Camera for that very reason – it functions like a normal camera, but reimagines the mode of output.
  • I like Dynamic Ground because it looks too delicate/intricate to be stepped on, but that’s what you are supposed to do. I saw this at a past ITP show and a few people were hesitant to step on it, which I thought was interesting.
  • I was really amused by Short++ because it’s a perfectly functional solution to being short that is completely impractical in real life.
  • I liked the Cavendish Trebuchet because the interaction was really simple and well-mapped to the result, which was surprising and amusing the first time, yet still satisfying after the surprise factor was gone.
  • I was impressed by GoogleBooth at the last show. In case you didn’t see it, it was just a booth marked with the google logo with 2 slots in front, one to write a search query, and one where your result will be pushed back through. If you went to the booth’s entrance and looked in, it could seat 2 people and had a reference encyclopedia. No technology was used at all.

This isn’t physical computing and is LED fetishism to the extreme, but I thought this was a rather pretty way to use 100,000 LEDs.