What have you made?First of all, LUSH was built as a team: four fellow classmates (Andrea Pansini, Silvia Sartor, Silvia Radice and I, Andrea Tiby) worked together, each one of us having a key role in the development of the project, each one of use with their different background and personal skills. Everything you see was designed and created from scratch, except the main electrical components of course (Arduino, FSR sensor, breadboard, wiring, etc.). So, starting from sketches to a more redefined 3d model, we used most of the machines our university (Istituto Europeo di Design - Milano) had to offer to us students: the top and the bottom pieces are made out of a solid block of composite wood with a CNC milling machine; the main body is filled with wadding, which was torn into pieces by ourselves (since it came in sheets) and this allowed not only a more smooth feeling when you touch the lamp, but also allows the two LED lights to better diffuse light through the wadding itself. This is all covered with a laser-engraved sheet of polypropylene, which is not only a decoration but its also very important when the user touches and squeezes the lamp, because, like a sort of “skin made of scales”, the lamp can twist and bend without compromising its structure. About the code: since we were using an FSR sensor, the main part of the coding involved finding the right range of pressure and sensitivity, and then based on that range, send back all the data to the LEDs which were also programmed to turn on, dim and fade out accordingly.
What gave you the initial inspiration?This project was our final assignment of our Arduino programming course: “to build an interactive lamp with Arduino”. My team mates and I were brainstorming one day, and this was during the second semester and we were all a bit stressed, actually. So, our initial thought was: “Could we build a lamp that helps someone, say students like use, to relieve their tension, in some sort of way?”. We started looking into things like stress reliever toys, chromotherapy, forms and materials that could enhance the user experience, because this all based of interaction we would like our users to have. After discarding a few ideas, the final concept was complete. After some days spent searching for the right kind of sensors, and after a couple weeks of trial and error, we finally decided and designed pretty much everything about our lamp. Then we started prototyping.
What is the original idea behind this project?Well, it pretty much works like a glowing, stuffed toy. The more you interact with him, the more you “get to know better” your lamp: let me explain. As said before, this lamp works with an FSR sensor, and its very precise. So, when I had to code that part, we had to keep in mind that this LAMP should be used by a vast majority of people. This means that any one will have a different experience with this lamp: during last year’s Rome Maker Faire it was fun watching the children, their parents, and other fellow makers, and their different approach to this lamp. Someone used only one hand, while the kids always used both. Some would apply too much pressure, and after a few seconds of light, the lamp will inevitably turn off.
Some others were afraid to break our project, and the light was always dim. It was a fun
How does it work?The lamp works with an FSR (Force-sensing resistor) sensor, which is inserted inside the main body, on the center in the middle of all the wadding. When you insert the plug, the lights are off. Then, there are three steps, like described above:
-a gentle squeeze turn the lights on, then then lights fade out, but the lights stay dim
-a more decise pressure and the lights are more intense
-a strong pressure turn off the lights
The Arduino board and wires are all stored in the bottom part, which is hollow.
How long did it take to make it real?We made LUSH during one of our courses, which lasted one semester. But, since we had to
design pretty much everything, we went through different ideas and “stages”, and LUSH was the final one. Like I said before, it probably took much more time to us to figure out how we could do what we wanted to create, than the actual realization of the concept…! For example, in the beginning we wanted to use a barometric sensor, and put it inside a balloon. But since that sensor was way too sensitive for what we wanted to do with our lamp, after a good couple weeks we decided to use a similar, but more intuitive, analog sensor, like an FSR. We also really liked the idea of Arduino being able of doing…well, virtually anything if you plug in the right sensor, so the first part of our course was all like “guys what if we put THIS inside our lamp”, with our professor trying to explain us why we were so wrong. It’s a really fun machine to work with.