Attachment

Attachment

Description

'Attachment' is a poetic machine that allows people to send digital messages, images or videos into the air by attaching them to biodegradable balloons.

Interview


What have you made?

'Attachment' is a poetic project, a message in a bottle 2.0. Inspired by the rusty machines of Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely, our fully automatic poetic machine gives physical form to the digital messages you can send via our website.
First, it engraves your message onto a thin piece of balsa wood that is connected by a string to a wooden clip. A balloon stock conveyor belt is then activated to place a balloon above a helium valve that automatically inflates it. Finally, a simple two-piece wooden clip seals the balloon, which is then released into the air where it will travel haphazardly to a random recipient.
We have designed and made almost every part of the machine, including the custom produced wooden clips that are used to seal the large latex balloons. Only the small engraver (called Microslice), developed in a factory in Oxfordshire as a kickstarter product, was not made by us. Every mechanism is driven by an Arduino Mega. The machine can either work fully automatically or each mechanism can be activated individually using toggle switches.
The machine is designed for a stock of 5 balloons, 5 messages and 5 wood clips.
After having sent 5 messages in the air, the machine needs to be re-stock by a human - during exhibitions we are in general two persons monitoring this procedure. We definitely enjoy the performative aspect of this project , enabling us to directly participate and witness human/machine interactions.

What gave you the initial inspiration?

I have always been attracted to what is in the air, and remember winning a balloon release contest when I was about ten years old. My small balloon flew from Switzerland to Austria.  
When I was 16 I also visited a cardboard factory in Switzerland where my uncle worked. There was something poetic and rhythmic in the huge automated productions machines i saw there.
These two stories and the reading, more than 10 years later of "La société de l'anticipation" written by French writer Eric Sadin have inspired this project, which is a way to resist the current use of «smart» technologies. This poetic concept, using current technology allow us to communicate differently and rediscover the unexpected, the random, and the serendipitous.
There is also the idea of connexion between people from different culture living far away from each others and the creation of random encounters thanks to the unexpected direction and speed of the wind.

What is the original idea behind this project?

The idea began as  diploma project in Media and Interaction Design in Spring 2014 at ECAL (University of Art and Design, Lausanne). In October 2014, the project received support from the Migros Culture Percentage (Grant fund for Digital Culture) to develop the final object. In 2016, the machine was built in collaboration with designer Thomas Grogan and the help of Niklas Hagemann.

How does it work?

1. Connect to www.attachment.cc, upload a poetic message and attach an image or a video if you like.
2. After validating your message a “VVVV” script will transform it to a G-code and stream it to the mini engraver included in our machine. Your name, your message (max. 120 characters is engraved, the rest can be discovered online), your email address and a generated code will then be engraved on a thin wood plate.
3. A balloon stock conveyor belt is then activated to place a balloon above a helium valve that automatically inflates it. Finally, a simple two-piece wood clip (attached with a string to the wood plate) is been put together with the help of a pneumatic cylinder and seals the balloon. When the cylinder is retracted, your balloon is then released into the air !
3. The balloon and your message will travel randomly.
4. Someone, somewhere might find it.
5. If so, they will connect to this website, type the code (on: attachment.cc/discover.php) and discover your entire message and image or video (if you include one). If they decide to, they may send you an email back. They can also locate the balloon they found on our interactive map of all found balloons (www.attachment.cc/map.php).
Some of them even share with us the photo of the found message.
For me, those poetic narratives are one of the most interesting aspects of the project.

How long did it take to make it real?

The idea of the project came in spring 2014 at ECAL, where a first prototype was developed but at that time, the machine was only half automatic and was facing some ecological issues.
After having received funding from an institution in Switzerland (Migros Culture Percentage), the new design of the machine has been developed in London in the Royal College of Art workshop. It took us around 30 days spread over 6 months, as we were working on others project at the same time. Since then, the project has been exhibited several times this year in Europe and new exhibitions are planned for next summer already.

How did you build it?

The machine is inspired by rusty sculptures and machines from Swiss Sculptor Jean Tinguely but we also wanted to give it slightly more tech and industrial looking finish, almost like a production machine system or a small laboratory on wheels.
The structure is made out of black steel, aluminum and half transparent acrylic, while other mechanical parts are whether 3D printed or CNC depending on the piece or the mechanisms. We used Nema23 steppers motors, linear actuators and pneumatic cylinders driven by solenoid valves.
By leaving the side open, we also wanted to let people see inside the complex machine with its control box, hundred of wires, electronics components and various pneumatic valves and cylinders. Kids are in general very intrigued by all these mechanisms.
Ecological concerns have always been important to this project. The balloons are made of biodegradable latex, while the message itself is engraved on a thin piece of balsa wood. We have also developed a simple two-piece wooden clip to seal the balloons. As the machine will primarily be installed outside, and we are aiming to make it fully solar-powered next year.
Finally, there is also an iPad which is fixed on the side of machine. During exhibitions,
it displays the queue of the messages in real time - the current one being engraved, the 5 previous ones sent, and the 5 incoming ones. (on www.attachment.cc/live.php)