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Assignment: final project proposal

As smart devices and social networks entered our lives, hyper-connectivity has made our world move faster than ever with technology shaping the way we relate to other human beings, creating new languages and shaping our behaviors through small gestures and everyday habits.

The selfie phenomenon is a clear example of a gesture that every internet social being has adopted due to the mobile devices and social media’s way of working, and its impact on society has been extremely high.

One one hand, as we all seem to repeat the same behaviors with a given technology, we ourselves start acting as predictable machines (1). On the other hand, we teach machines to understand us, giving them the ability to replicate gestures and habits in a surprisingly human way (2).

It’s interesting to see how even the machines we sent to explore the space, using the most advanced technologies, try to embody such human gestures, just like some uncanny ambassador of humankind (3).

A selfie is a paradigmatic way to prove to the contemporary world that one exists - it is both a statement of some profound need to express oneself, and something that is indistinguishable from new modes of interaction proper to the social media aesthetics.

The selfie has become a (un)human necessity.

In that sense, the idea that I would like to propose is a kinetic sculpture that takes selfies and post it on Instagram. This sculpture would take photos in a mirror of itself surrounded by the audience, making the latter participating in the act of sharing and becoming part of the sculpture’s digital lifetime.

Instagram’s API and restrictive terms of use (4) are designed with the aim to maintain the network as human as possible, banning bots and other softwares that try to replicate human behaviors inside the platform. The sculpture would perform as a physical being controlling a mobile device, acting the same way as a digital bot yet in the physical world (5).

Main references:


Lonely Sculpture (2014) by Tully Arnot


“When computer scientists at Google’s mysterious X lab built a neural network of 16,000 computer processors with one billion connections and let it browse YouTube, it did what many web users might do — it began to look for cats.”
(Liat Clark, Wired UK — 26 June 2012)


"Mars rover, Curiosity, takes a self-portrait and shares it with the world”
(Andrew Kalinchuk, Digital Trends — 9 September 2012)


API Terms of Use [...] 1. Licensed Uses and Restrictions [...] You shall not:
1. Use the Instagram APIs for any application that replicates or attempts to replace the essential user experience of or the Instagram apps. [...]
4. Use the Instagram APIs to post automated content to Instagram, including likes and comments that were not initiated and entered by an Instagram user.”


"Internet bot", Wikipedia

References from other assignments:

How an engineer uses Tinder, similar to (1)

WaterColorBot, CNC painting machine

Blind Self Portrait by Kyle McDonald, CNC drawing machine

Level Cleared (2012) by Evan Roth, idea of recording paths, in that case playing Angry Birds game

Time Print (2011) by Paul Ferragut, CNC painting machine

Piccolo pocket sized open source CNC-bot

Auto Writing Machine by Gakken

Plotclock, a clock that plots time, using a maker and a whiteboard

Plotclock, using a stylus and a smartphone

Tapster, robot for automating mobile applications on a mobile device

New references:

Forbidden Fruit Machine (2015) by Niklas Roy, main reference for the mechanics behind the machine

The Selfie Plant (2015) by Haoyu Li, Manu Dixit and Shruti Knr at CIID

Tender - It's how people meat, similar to (1)

ÉCAL students examine the selfie at PhotoBooth exhibition

ScrollerToy (2014) by Cesar Escudero Andaluz, tangible interface

Rock Paper Scissors by weAREmedienkuenstler, game played between two computers

New references for CNC machines:

Herald, calligraphy machine designed and built by five undergraduates at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

Arduino Painting Machine, by Neuro Productions

Pythagoras drawing delta robot by Aaron Fan

Arduino CNC - Plotter running on GRBL (Part 2)

CoreXY by Ilan E. Moyer, system to keep both steppers fixed on a position

CoreXY experimentation: pen plotting with motor moves

DrawBot 2.0 based on CoreXY system

Perpetual Storytelling Apparatus (2009) by Julius von Bismarck and Benjamin Maus, CNC drawing machine

What materials and components will be required?
— A microcontroller, two steppers with drivers, a servo motor, 3D printed parts, rod, transmission belt, bearings, a stylus and wood or acrylic to hold the whole structure.

How much will it cost?
— The most expensive thing will be the stepper motors, all the rest, each component or part should be cheaper than a stepper.

What parts and systems will be made and what processes will be used?
— There will be three main areas of work, hardware, electronics and software, which include mainly: 3D design (using Rhino) and 3D print, electronics design (using Eagle) and production, coding (using Arduino) and mechanical design.

What tasks need to be completed?
— At least, a machine that moves to axis and touch a smartphone screen.

What is the schedule?
— Because of the delay with other assignments, I have only three weeks (full time) to dedicate at the final project, from 3th of June to 24th.

How will it be evaluated?
— I have to demonstrate my mastery on different techniques we learnt during the course of the Academy. How do I go to demonstrate it? By doing as much iterations as possible in each area and documenting it faithfully, but first of all, I need to make the machine works. If I can accomplish that, the machine will show off itself.

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