Module 3 - Physical Computing


Selection of initial experiments using sensors and actuators

This module is a two month intense introduction to physical computing concepts. As a basic platform it uses Wiring and Arduino, and builds on the Processing experience that students gained in the previous Helvepolis module.

The idea is to use a sensors and actuators to read and interact with the real world. As a first experiment, students built their own Braitenberg vehicles to explore simple agent-based systems. Shown below are the results of the first introductory exercises, as well as final group projects.

Further physical computing projects of the CAAD department can be found at the Embedded Lab.



1. Braitenberg Vehicle Tests



A Braitenberg vehicle shows a series of behaviors, from finding the light,
to avoiding edges, to avoiding people!
A project by Jeannette Kuo and Dominik Zausinger .

2. Spathiphyllum Sapiens



A plant that can communicate its needs, ask for company, and party like only a good friend can!
A project by Michele Leidi, Edyta Augustynowicz and Sofia Georgakopoulou.

3. Paper Cloud




Making of Paper Cloud video.


An undulating ceiling landscape brings a bit of the outdoors inside. It reminds the occupant to bring an umbrella, a jacket, or sunglasses. The network of sensors translate the exterior conditions to a dynamic interior experience. The behavior is semi-autonomous, like cellular automata, creating unpredictable patterns that change over time.

An interactive installation by Sofia Georgakopoulou, Edyta Augustynowicz, Jeannette Kuo, and Dominik Zausinger.



4. Windy



Windy is a student project developed at the chair of CAAD at the ETH in zurich during the Physical Computing Module. Windy is an interactive design object which reflects and simulates natural conditions and also reacts on the behaviour of people. This object, a combination of nature and technology, exists out of many nodes - a set of simple white balloons.

The idea is to embed functional properties within a simulation of natural attributes like wind and temperature. The object moves indoor as an object outdoor does - influenced by exterior weather conditions (e.g. grass and wind). It reacts, but is also able to provide you with actual, useful information in a surprising manner. These features are split up in 3 modes and are supported by using a smart phone.

By Stefanie Sixt, Min-Chieh Chen, Ma Hai Dong, and Jakob Przybylo



5. Time Machine



Time / Behavior / Motion Spaces
Project by Dimitry Demin and Mohammad Kadivar



6. W.E.A.N.



Wireless Environmental Analysis Network
Project by Dino Rossi and Brian Wang



7. AvaGarden - Connect Real and Virtual



Rather than simulating and analyzing the real world, the goal of the AvaGarden project is to explore how people interact with the virtual agents by building physical connections between real and virtual world.

The two worlds shares a few attributes: the floor layout, temperature, light and sound. Activities of people are influenced by physical conditions and also influence them, which subsequently result in new tendency in the behaviors of virtual agents. On other hand the situations in virtual world also reflect to real world (here, by rhythms produced by buzzers).

Five remote sensor nodes are built for this project, each of which is made up with three sensors, a buzzer, an Arduino board and an xbee Module. They actually build up a wireless sensor network. All data are transferred to a coordinator computer on which the virtual world and a multi agent system are built, and all these data and events in both worlds are synchronized.


Project by Hua Hao and Dieter Schmitter