The purpose of this project was to design, build and demonstrate an interactive pixel integrating machine elements, sensors and actuators and code to perform a specified function. As the pixel didn't need to have a specific function - we set ourselves the ultimate goal of - Let's wow people!
Sometimes the simplest things are the most impressive and most complex. We still don't quite understand the brain but have a pretty good understanding of the heart.
The real question is - which one is more important - heart or brain? This entire project was about giving people an experience. We chose to do that by creating a mechanical heart mirroring the user's heartbeat.
The mechanism proved to be the most challenging part of the project. How do you make something mechanical seem organic?
We experimented with crank shafts and belt drives. Ultimately we ended up using a mechanism consisting of cams, a camshaft and spring linkages. This mechanism allowed for the most organic movement alongside achieving a dub-dub sound.
The mechanism was controlled by an Arduino. A heart rate sensor would read the users heart rate, send the data to an Arduino, which remapped the BPM to RPM based on the gear ratio. This which was then used to control the speed of the DC motor and hence the mechanical heart.
We were inspired by animatronic boxes from the Victorian era. We wanted it to have a rustic look to it whilst making people curious to find out what is was.
We made several prototypes of paper cardboard & aluminium foil. We decided to use resin on the aluminium foil models to get the most organic shapes possible.
The resin models were copper plated firstly to enhance the rustic look, but also because copper looks like organic tissue when placed in red light.
To enhance the user experience we created placed LED strips on the inside of the frame in the box. Further to this the box was filled with black felt to absorb any external light.
How does it work?