Category Archives: The Waiting Hand

eXploration I – Home made theremin

There are many ways of building a theremin, from kits that are available online or from creating a handmade theremin with objects like the Wiimote. To start with the basics, I explored a simple example which uses two phototransistors and a small speaker. The way that it works is very simple, and a provides a good starting point. This is essentially a basic theremin that uses light and can also be ‘played’ by moving one’s hands closer or farther away. The input taken from the phototransistors as light is converted into current and outputed through speakers.




Related Existing Works:

Work: ChaoDependent
Artist: Dave Murray-Rust, Angleos Papadakis, Owen Green
Although the LEDs aren’t the main purpose of the project, the way in which the different parts communicate with one another is very similar to what I want to achieve. The physical components are also similar as they can be moved around by the participants. The relationship between lights and sound is also worth looking into as it relates conceptually to idea #1.

Work: Sound Mites
Artist: David Bouchard
This work is made up of many blocks that do nothing on their own, but when placed next to similar blocks emit light and sound. This is very similar to idea #2 in the mode of interaction between such psychical forms. They are also conceptually similar, emphasizing how small parts come together to create something larger than themselves.

Work: Listening Table
Artist: David Bouchard, Sajit Sadi, Orkhan Telhan, Pranav Mistry
The interface of this piece is a table, which displays moving graphics based on surrounding sounds. This is another example of audio converted to visuals, and it also works by involving a participant similar to idea #1.

Work: P.E.A.L
Artist: Monomatic
Link: |
This piece allows the user to use their hands to interrupt beams which will play the sound of a ringing bell. There are different beams which play different pitches of bell sounds. The hand activated sound is similar to what I intend to do in idea #1.

Work: The Robotic Theremin Ensemble
Artist: Ray Lee
This project uses actual theremins, and they are played my robots. I like how this visualizes the relationship between motion and sound, a concept similar to mine.

Work: WiiMote Theremin
Artist: Ken Moore
I want to try to make my own theremin for this project because I want to avoid the use of antennae for aesthetical purposes. I want the sculpture to look like a unified body which I think will add to the wonderment of the experience. This theremin is built by hacking a WiiMote and using it as a proximity sensor that translates the values of distance to a program that plays sounds of different pitch and volume.

Work: Siftables
Artist: David Merrill
This is made up of small blocks that communicate with one another to create a bigger idea, in this case a piece of music. This technology can be applied to idea #2, making parts of awhole communicate to eachother.

Work: RFID Squeezebox Controller
Artist: Trileet Inc
This project uses RFID technology to play specific songs that correspond to the images placed in front of the mp3 player. This is similar to the spheres in idea #3 which trigger different lights instead of audio. RFIDs are also a potential method of creating idea #2.

Work: Laser Harp
Artist: Stephen Hobley
The laser harp is a musical instrument made of light that creates midi data as the user can break beams of light with his/her hands to create different sounds. The interactive aspect of this project and the audio visual relationship relates to idea #1.

Work: Music LED light box
Artist: Unknown
This is similar to idea 1 where light is responding to sound. The colors of the light are also changing, and the interconnection of audio and visuals is much like what I want to achieve

Work: Oscilloscope Art
Artist: Unknown
The oscilloscope translates signal voltages into a visual form, translating something immaterial to a visual form. They can also be interactive and similar to idea #1.

Work: Little Yellow Chair
Artist: Arthur Ganson
This is a kinetic sculpture that is an amazing synchronization of machinery, which move to produce one perfect but fleeting moment in time when all the parts come together to form a chair. I am very interested in kinetic sculpture and machinery and this is a very inspiring piece which can help me realize ideas 4 & 5.

Work: Sea creature
Artist: Theo jansen
This amazing kinetic sculpture is memorable to me because of the fact that it is purely analog. It uses no electronics or power, as it is pushed by the wind. The intricate mechanics are worth looking at and possibly applying to ideas 4& 5.

First Response: “Why Things Matter” – Julian Bleeker

Why Things Matter brings to light many things which I can’t say I wasn’t aware of before, but which had not been placed in front of me so bluntly before. There is no denying that technology is moving in a direction where what we thought of as impossible not too long ago can become a reality. Julian Bleeker talks about a new way of looking at ordinary objects, and goes as far as calling pigeons and fish first-class citizens. They achieve this status because they are blogjects -objects that blog- with the ability to trace where they are and where they’ve been, archive their histories, and most importantly have some form of agency in asserting their voice and contributing to a conversation. The title Why Things Matter, which seemed unanswerable to me before, makes more sense after being introduced to the blogjects identified in the article. Objects can matter, they can make a difference, and can enhance experiences. Although I wouldn’t label these as citizens, my disagreement is mostly on a semantic level. Blogjects can certainly play a big role in informing people of important issues that must be heard by humans and which would not be obtained in any other way, or in communicating from part to part within some sort of self-correcting mechanism. Whether humans are involved or not, the main point here is communication. Communication is what is going to make things happen, the only thing is knowing what to do with it.

These innovations in technology and communication can make anything possible, and I think it all starts with reiterating big notions and ideas into comprehensible formats. I’m personally interested in exploring human psychology and interaction and merging the tangible with the immaterial through different forms of communication. The article’s description of blogjects, and coining of the word itself, inspired me to come up with new uses for old objects. I like the idea of taking an object with a mundane purpose and giving it a new role and therefore new importance in the exploration of possible psychological aspects through different sensory experiences.


1) Theremin-controlled LED sculpture

Expanding on the idea of communication between one thing to another, and looking at it on a psychological level, led me to the notion of synesthesia: “a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” I want to take this phenomenon and translate it to an experience that simulates this intertwining of different senses. Two different senses will be affecting and reflecting each other: specifically sound and color. One way which this could be possible is through a theremin-controlled LED. A theremin is an instrument that emits sound simply based on the proximity of the players hands to its two antennae. The interactive sculpture will allow participants to use the movements of their hands to create sounds of different pitches and volumes which will affect the color and brightness of a glowing orb-like sculpture.

2) Parts of a whole

Part of what makes blogjects special is essentially the fact that they have a purpose beyond their basic functionality, and they contribute to a bigger idea. They are individual parts that make up a more complex being, much like different parts of a brain have to all come together to carry a function. I want to turn this idea into a simple intuitive game that will illustrate the importance of individual parts of a whole. The game will make use of certain objects that can be freely picked up and moved, and which will all light up in unison only if they are all in close proximity to each other. The objects will also be constantly moving to keep the motive of the game ongoing and to represent a level of complexity.

3) Emotional Roller-coaster

An interactive sculpture of a working roller-coaster structure will be built behind a face as a symbol of the ups and downs of human emotions. Different spheres can be rolled down the structure, coming to a stop behind the face. Each sphere triggers an assigned mood, that will be displayed as a certain color. The spheres are interchangeable and all look the same to symbolize the lack of being able to consciously choose what to feel. The communication between the action and the result is an illustration between an emotional response to an event or environment.

4) Ekochamber

Ekochamber is a kinetic sculpture that illustrates the litteral interpretation of a machine that produces humans. It is a visual metaphoric representation of the societal structures that are designed to produce people who are meant to benefit the system, disregarding personal happiness of individuals. The moving sculpture is made up of pieces that work in unison to achieve a seamless looping action. Two hands are attached to an egg that splits in half, allowing an embryo to spin down and around in a circle perpendicular to it, which will return to the egg after a full loop, and repeat.

5) The Waiting Hand

The waiting hand is another kinetic sculptural piece. Physically, it is a mechanical hand that taps its fingers, which is driven by a motor. Conceptually, it is an illustration of time and the fact that so much of time is spent waiting. The hand waits for someone to come near it, and when that happens, the hand stops moving, passing the waiting on to the viewer.

Artist Statement

Turritopsis Nutricula is an interactive jellyfish robot that exhibits different behaviors based on the proximity of the user. The project is named after a species of jellyfish that is able to repeatedly revert itself to a primary state after having reached maturity, rendering it potentially immortal. The subject of immortality is an intriguing one: something unfathomable and therefore greatly desired. It has always been associated with mythical creatures, and learning of its existence in nature compelled me to translate this notion into a visual interpretation. The project embodies the ability to cheat death when it approaches, and therefore disregard the constrain of time as we know it.

The user is faced with a sculptural interpretation of a jellyfish. The body of the jellyfish is composed of a patterned frosted glass dome, and thin, semi-transparent plastic strips for its tentacles. When not interacted with, the jellyfish is in “breathing” mode: florescent blue LED’s slowly fade in and out symbolizing breathing and life. Each breath marks the passing of time and the progression of age. When the user hovers on top of the jellyfish, or places their hand close enough, a sensor triggers the tentacles to move up and down and the body to change color to a bright white that flashes with each movement of the tentacles. The white is representative of the “rebirth”: the end as well as the beginning of another life cycle. The proximity of the user symbolizes death and the threat of mortality. When the jellyfish feels death is approaching, it responds by rebirthing itself, just as it would in nature. The viewers get to impersonate death themselves, as they have the power to trigger this rebirth, while experiencing a close up view of life cheating death.

This interaction between the user and the jellyfish is made possible through an Infrared Proximity Sensor that inputs the user’s distance and outputs different modes of the code stored in the Arduino. If the user is inside the required range, the jellyfish exhibits “rebirth” mode, and if they are not, it reverts back to “breathing” mode. The interaction allows for the user to play an active role in the life cycle of the jellyfish, just as adverse conditions in nature cause the jellyfish to turn back to its polyp stage whenever they feel the need. The jellyfish can revert at any stage of maturity, as they respond to their surroundings, just as the user can interact at anytime, with no length of time required between rebirths. The project is an interesting visual interpretation of immortality based on a real life occurrence in nature, and a celebration of the miracle of this phenomenon.


More progress pictures

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