Introduction to Physical Computing / Week 7 / Midterm Project

For the midterm project, we present Aquarduino! Aquarduino is basically a smart coaster, that detects the level of water in your cup, and based on the time elapsed, gives you reminders to drink water and not dehydrate yourself. I worked with Lindsey on this project. We had brainstormed on many ideas, ideas revolving around board games, toys for pets and audio modulations. But eventually, we decided on something that can find an application in the busy world, and can assist people in some way.

At this point in time, people are becoming increasingly conscious about the food choices that they make, and the physical activity that is needed, in order to live a healthy life. We thought that water is an important part of our daily intake, and has been overlooked by the plethora of apps and smartwatches that are out there. Therefore, we settled on the idea of a smart coaster. Voila!

In Theory:
Theoretically, Aquarduino detects the level of water in a cup and keeps track of the number of cups of water the user has had during the day. For the numbers, we estimated that the average sleeping time for an average human being is 8 hours a day (not applicable to ITP though haha). So, a person is awake for around 16 hours in a day. And the person should have at least 8 glasses of water in the day. And that’s what the project tries to achieve. To remind the user to have at least 8 glasses of water during the day.

For the project, we worked with a force sensitive resistor (FSR) to detect the water level in the cup, and a neopixel LED that can update the user about the water consumption activity. We also integrated the application in p5.js to provide a real time simulation of the level of water in the cup and the count of cups of water that the user has had during the day. The user can reset the coaster in the morning to start over the count.

The p5 code can be found here.
The Arduino code can be found here.

Most of the challenges that we faced were centered around serial communication between Arduino and p5.
1. Noise. An FSR is not steady and can produce a lot of noise when passing values. To control this we introduced a minimum threshold in the Arduino code, which can detect when a cup is picked up from the coaster and there doesn’t need to be a simulation of results during that time.
2. Constant flow of values. The constant flow of input between Arduino and p5 had to controlled. The overflow of input every 9600 parts of a second was making the simulation to go haywire and project results that were not desired. For instance, random variations in the water level when the cup is picked up to drank from. We decided to modulate the way in which information was exchanged between Arduino and p5.

Simulation Results:
screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-11-23-33-am   screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-11-24-35-am       screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-11-27-21-am   screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-11-31-49-am



This simple project can find a useful application in an office/library where people generally get engrossed in work/assignments and  forget to consume the recommended quantity of water. If the FSR input is noise-free and works well with water, the application can be extended to alcohol consumption. The coaster can be used in bars/pubs by a bartender to keep track of the amount of beer/wine a customer is having, and to remind them when is a good time to stop.

Lindsey Daniels, Utsav Chadha

Erased De Kooning, of Rauschenberg and Kosuth

Wikipedia describes conceptual art as is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. Kosuth puts this idea forth by simply saying:

“We don’t work with forms and colors. We work with meaning. How you make the work is far less important than why you make it.”
– Joseph Kosuth (link)

I’m not sure though, if I understand this completely or if I can agree with it. Because although concept artists prioritized meaning over material, I have often seen concept artists using forms that are different, radical and meant to catch attention. For instance, consider Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (which used a shark suspended in formaldehyde), or Joseph Kosuth’s Four Colors Four Words (which used striking lights), or Doris Selcado’s untitled sculpture made out of chairs in an empty space.

Form was indeed an important aspect of concept art, just that the form was not traditional and conventional challenged art practice. In fact most of Kosuth’s work revolved around the literal interpretation of words into form. Consider Glass Words Material Described or One and Three Chairs or Five Words in Orange Neon, as examples. Therefore, form was not irrelevant to concept art (just that the use of form had to be synchronous with the meaning). I see conceptual art more as a marriage between form and meaning, rather than meaning over form.

  glass-words-material-described  one-and-three-chairs  five-words-in-orange-neon

That said, It’s time to move to the art piece that I’m going to write a response to. Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning. Most of what is to be known about this brilliant piece is spoken by Rauschenberg himself in this video (as was shared in class). Erased de Kooning was made at a point in time when Willem De Kooning was highly revered, and Rauschenberg was still struggling to gain recognition in the art community.

“They didn’t take my work seriously, which would make me even friendlier, as far as they were concerned. Because I, in no way, could be considered a competitor. So, I was not a threat.”
– Robert Rauschenberg

This clearly explains how Rauschenberg consciously stood out from traditional art practice, and was trying to make an identity through his work. Rauschenberg wanted to create something in off white, and had been erasing his own work. However, he soon realized that it meant nothing more than an erased Rauschenberg, which would have been insignificant at the time. He was looking for meaning in erasing. Which led him to erase a painting by one of the most venerated painters of the time.


It was a strong statement, indeed. And it was, by no means, easy. The original contained pencil, charcoal, paint and crayon (if Rauschenberg is to be believed). He spent an entire month erasing it (if Rauschenberg is to be believed). But regardless, I find the painting highly effective in terms of delivering a message, violation of art practice, and deskilling of art. This particular piece is conceptual in the sense, that the meaning takes precedence over the form. And the superseding of form can’t be more blatant than an erased painting.

canyon  monogram  the-broad

Drawing a comparison to Rauschenberg’s other works, this piece is unique. The artist generally worked with paint over newspaper/magazine cutouts, and added third dimensional elements to it (Combines). However, all his work is highly conceptual. It compels the viewer to contemplate over the meaning through the means of a concept. The concept can be a goat enclosed within a tyre, it can be a sack hanging from a painting or it can be an erased painting. Most of his work is highly chaotic, and is reflective of his own self.

“I only consider myself successful when I do something that resembles the lack of order that I sense.”
– Robert Rauschenberg (link)

Kosuth said the prioritization of meaning over form, and most of his work was about literal translations of words through form. Rauschenberg’s related his own success in the reflection of his inner chaos, and consequently most of his work is chaotic, to the extent that it breaks the two dimensional space. Perhaps, I can also associate Joseph Beuys to this list.

Business Card

Visual Language / Week 6 / Logo Design

When approaching the design for a personal business card, I kept a few things in mind:

  1. It should be simple. A complicated design generally loses the viewer’s interest.
  2. It should be representative of my work and visual tendencies.
  3. The logo should be scalable and minimal. Many global companies have seen a shift from complicated design to minimalist simple designs over the decades.

The design:

business-card-side1 business-card-side3

Personally, I tried to reflect my work with black and white in the business card. Therefore the color palette was monochrome. I’ve used an illustration and subtitles on the other side, so that my skills are clear and understandable. I’ve tried to keep the contact information and name visible. Hence, the use of black/grey over white.

The card is also designed in such a way, that it can be folder into a simple book. The contents of the book contain an illustration on the left page and my information on the right. This is similar to illustrated storybooks.

Asynchronous Serial Communication (PComp Lab 5)

Introduction to Physical Computing / Week 6 / Asynchronous Serial Communication

Week 5 was concentrated over revising analog and digital input and output. Last week, we begun using asynchronous serial communication.

While working with serial communication, there were some things that have to be kept in mind. Firstly, in order for two devices to communicate serially they should agree on three things.

  1. Baud Rate – The speed at which the two devices send information ( generally 9600 bits per second between a computer and an Arduino microcontroller )
  2. The logic – The interpretation of high and low voltages. This can be simple logic or inverse logic ( as can be found in RS232)
  3. The connections – Microcontroller’s transmit line connects to the port’s receive line, the port’s transmit line connects to the microcontroller’s receive line, and microcontroller’s ground connects to the port’s ground.

This week’s lab was focused around reading analog input’s from a potentiometer, and using the input to interact serially with an application. Such as the Serial monitor, CoolTerm or P5. As demonstrated in the class, I used the analog input to move a circle horizontally in P5.

Post this lab, I was trying to run a code where in three analog input’s are read and printed out as a string on the Serial monitor. However, my P5 window was still running while I was working on this code. This led to unexpected results on the Serial monitor. After a while I realized what was happening. So, it’s very useful to remember that the USB port can interact with only one application at a time. Having multiple applications trying to read serial data from the microcontroller will lead to an erroneous output.

The History of Depression

Art Strategies / Week 5 / Systems, Ethnographic and Infrastructural

During the past two weeks, I had gone through multiple readings on systems thinking, and was introduced to many artists working with a systems/ethnographic approach. Two particular artists that really resonated with me were Beth Campbell and William Powhida. Beth Campbell’s work stems from a condition of indecision. Indecision is something that I’ve struggled with for a long time, and the possibility of using indecision and exaggerated analysis of situations to create art was something that I had never contemplated about before.

On the other hand, William Powhida’s work is representative of strong cultural or political statements. The form used is simplistic and easy to interpret. What personally struck with me was the use of illustrations to intertwine many different themes/systems into one piece. On first glance, although, the message/idea might seem singular, but in actuality his work talks about how many different systems lead to or are affected by that one singular idea. Some similarities between both artists was simplistic presentation and the use of illustrations (or cartoons).

Inspired from the two artists, I’m looking forward to using my own illustrations to portray the history of depression. I will be attempting to research depression through the last two centuries, artists who have dealt with major depression, how nihilism relates to depression, how nihilism also presents a remedy to depression, and perhaps how psychoanalysis can be associated with the dissection of this medical condition ( is it a medical condition or a state of being? ). Some of the authors/artists that I will be looking up will be Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Freidrich Nietzsche, Soren Kierkegaard, and perhaps Sigmund Freud.

The Presidential Campaign, as seen by William Powhida

Art Strategies / Week 4 / Systems, Ethnographic and Infrastructural

For a long time, my interests have lied in caricatural illustrations, and black and white. Which is why, from a visual perspective, William Powhida’s work appealed to me. Most of Powhida’s work is a critique of the society, the art culture specifically. Many of his diagrams and illustrations offer direct statements on art collectors, critiques, galleries and the art-making process. Pieces such as The Critique and Artist’s Statement are relevant examples.


His words are simple, his presentation cluttered and convoluted. But everything is on the surface. His work, instead of being allegorical, is very apparent in understanding. This is another aspect which I appreciate. Simplicity has a certain allure for me. But in this blogpost, rather than talking about his earlier work, I’ll be reflecting on something that is culturally relevant at this point of time, as the 2016 election draws closer. His series of drawings on the Trump vs Clinton presidential bout (collectively presented as Grayscale at Postmasters Gallery) present a clear statement on what his political inclinations are ( after all, one of the titles says “The Republicans are not people. Fuck them All!” ). So, it’s quite clear what the artist is trying to achieve here.




However, what’s interesting is the strategy being employed to present the message. Powhida makes use of systems thinking when implementing his ideas. His sketches are not only a commentary on what the candidates stand for, or what their policies are, or how diabolic they are. His work also interrelates biological stereotypes, political ideologies, social structures, and psychological constructs with the presidential candidates. As can be seen from the Clinton vs Trump and Bernie vs Clinton comparisons, terms such as liberal idealism, progressive revolution, moderate pragmatism, scopophilia, traditional masculinity/femininity, machismo, suburbia, identity chaos are thrown in the mix.

The campaign is exhibited as a system, consisting of parts – biological, psychological, cultural and personal, all of them used in a political context. Although each sub-system isn’t elaborately presented, the idea is right there, easy to interpret. The entire collection of drawings is certainly meaningful and effective. The message couldn’t be more blatant than the rendition of Donald Trump as a monster ( as seen above ), or perhaps the lewd piece humbly called Some Names for Drumpf.

His earlier was generally about the art culture and consumerism ( The LA Makeover Chart, for instance ). This time round, he is exploring political territories, not his first political venture though ( Griftopia, 2011 ). But no matter which system his work explores, the common theme is relevance with the time. His work is a commentary on the present, be it in a political, artistic or capitalist context.

Color Analysis

Visual Language / Week 4 / Color

In order to find the color palette for my life, I took some pictures from the places I frequent and think about the things that I carry around. Incidentally, the places that I frequent on a daily basis such as the ITP floor, West 4 subway station and my apartment, all have a predominant brown tone to them.

012813 wp_20160926_005 wp_20161005_003

Taking some inspiration from the cleaning up and organizing art displayed in the last class, I organized the contents of my bag and pockets on a brown surface. I selected my bag as the subject since, over time, it has developed into an extended organ, one which aids me with many daily functions. The result was very interesting.


Interestingly, the clean-up act presented black and grey as the dominant colors with traces of yellow and purple added here and there. I followed this by pixelating the image so that the objects take the form of square blocks and speak directly about the colors from the image.


The final outcome strongly reminded me of Coldplay’s album art for their 2005 album, X & Y.


The results for my hue test were as follows:


Analog Output (PComp Lab 3)

Introduction to Physical Computing / Week 4 / Analog Output

Microcontrollers generally can’t produce a varying voltage. They can only produce digital voltage, which is either HIGH or LOW. So, to emulate the effect of analog output, the microcontroller generates a series of voltage pulses at regular intervals. This is called pulse width modulation (PWM). Analog outputs can be used for many purposes such as fading an LED, controlling a motor or speaker.

As part of the first lab, I tried to feed an analog input into the Arduino from a potentiometer, and then use the input to regulate the brightness of a LED. The results were are as shown below:

Arduino Code:


Similar to an LED, one can use the analog input provided by the potentiometer to control other devices such as servo motors or speakers. Next, I worked with a speaker where I noticed that just changing the pulse width only produced a variation in the speaker’s volume. Through the Arduino Uno, one can also vary the frequency of the pulse width, which can be used to vary the sound produced by the speaker. This is done using the tone() function.

Arduino code:


I used a servo motor that had the capability to turn 180 degrees.

Arduino code: