Week 6

Midterm Part 1

The Idea

So, it was time for the midterms.

I was partnered with Sydney Meyers to come up with ideas to make for the midterm. We went through several fun things to tackle and found several of them were mentioned by Tom Igoe in his  post Physical Computing’s Greatest Hits (and misses).

Our focus was definitely to go for a scary vibe, we wanted people to get frightened by our installation. Unfortunately I can’t show many doodles we had as ideas for the project, since I lost my notebook. However, here are a few of the sketches we went through before we arrived at our main idea. 


Creepy sketches

We thought about a Chucky-like doll which followed you with it’s head (first sketch). It would have several ultrasound sensors around it, and when one was activated it head would turn towards that position. Though the idea seemed cool, we thought probably the doll head’s movement wouldn’t be as fluid since it would depend on the amount of sensors around the doll (sketch #2). We also though we could use the ml5 library with Posenet to detect body movement, but we quickly threw away the idea since it would require a camera and would be harder to control if several people were to get close to it.

It quickly became clear how we should control the detection, how to make the “user” maneuver through space how wanted them to. Right away we thought about how instead of making something detect a person passing by, we might as well make the user go straight to the action point. Reflecting on how cool a cardboard box filled with satanic puppies might look (as usual), we decided to take a more human-focused approach and simulate dead babies instead. Puppy skulls aren’t that easy to get a hand on.

Anyways, we let the idea settle for a while. And then, out of nowhere, came Keanu Reeves.

Final Sketch

We came up with something similar to this scene in the Constantine movie, made in 2005. I seemed like a ghoul, or a demon stretching a skin like material until it almosts bursts. We thought about how it would look great on a picture frame and with a leather-like material similar to skin.

Sketch #4: Final Idea sketch.
Sketch #4: Final Idea sketch.

Looking for the stuff

So, we were set. Time to go get the stuff to make it happen. We would need an old frame, some leather, and a backside to mount the electronics. We thought going through thrift shops and antiquity stores would be our best choice. We tried Mother of Junk, which seemed like it had a great collection of items (The first to picture ahead show it’s massive assortment). It did have variety, but the employees were trying to rip us off, so we decided to leave to Brooklyn Vintiques. 

Here we found our $17 frame, and in a thrift store nearby we found a leathery track suit that worked perfectly (picture ahead). We decided to purchase the necessary wood for the backframe, since we needed it to be in perfect state.

Will it look good?

To test how it would look we cut the suit we bought and adjusted it temporarily behind the windowless frame. We did several tests to see how it would stretch and how much cloth we would have to cut.

Visual testing.
Hell yeah it will.

Installation: The frame



  1. We removed the glass from the frame and clamped our cloth around it to measure it’s stretch potential and which was the best placement.
  2. According to our previous measurements we cut the cloth according to the frame size and how tense we wanted it to be.
  3. We used a staple gun to attach the cloth to the frame, making sure each part would be firmly attached.
Frame with leather canvas installed.
Frame with leather canvas installed.

4. We proceeded to cut the wood which would be attached to the frame according to the previous measurements. We decided having a 3 inch depth would give us enough space to mount the motors and Arduino behind the frame. The added frame would be solid wood as well, as to give support to the whole system.

5. We left the backframe with wood glue for a whole day before we proceeded with the next part. To ensure it’s firmness we used clamps.

Clamping the backframe to the finished frame.
Backframe glued together. Until next time!

Thanks for reading! Heads up for part 2!