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I made a glowing necklace by attempting to follow instructions in Diana Eng's Fashion Geek book:

Glowing necklace

It is made from three LEDs and a light dependent resistor, which I soldered together, and they are connected to a battery with conductive thread. So that the LEDs don't look really really bright, the light dependent resistor causes the LEDs to get dimmer when light levels are dimmer.

My necklace doesn't look quite like the picture in the book: Picture and instructions on Etsy, and a PDF with instructions from Fashion Geek.

Before I added thread around it to make it softer:

Notes about some of the things I had difficulty with )

(Cross-posted to LiveJournal: Glowing Necklace.)
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I completed the SF0 task "Fun with Food" on Monday. The instructions were to "play with your food".

This was originally posted at SF0:

Did you just pop out a raspberry, or was it on the custard? Stop reading the currant bun and go up the apples. Let's all get in the jam and not bother with a sherbet.

I gathered food to play with:
A currant bun
Some apples and pears
A jar of strawberry jam
A sherbet dip-dab
Some custard
A Cadbury's flake
I then cooked a raspberry tart, and also made a jelly.


On Sunday, I was shown how to use a MaKey MaKey with Scratch by [personal profile] deathboy. The MaKey MaKey is great for playing with food. For example, you can use bananas as piano keys, send messages on Facebook using alphabet soup, or play Tetris with tomatoes. Scratch is a simple way to create animations or programs just by dragging and dropping elements, so you don't have to worry about syntax.

I decided to create a Cockney rhyming slang Scratch program. I live in London, but speak Estuary English as opposed to Cockney, so looked at a list on Wiktionary: Cockney rhyming slang. I drew pictures of a television and some stairs, and recorded a fart sound. I then imported some images and moved statements around in Scratch, so that the pictures would move around.

I hooked up the MaKey MaKey and attached it to the food with crocodile clips. Messy! I abandoned the sherbet dip-dab at this point as it was not conductive.

My Scratch program:

The food hooked up to the MaKey MaKey:

If you touch the raspberry tart, it makes a farting sound.
If you touch the jelly and custard, a television appears, and the words "Hello SF0!" appear on the screen.
If you touch the jar of strawberry jam, a car moves across the screen.
If you touch the currant bun, a sun appears and moves about.
If you touch an apple, stairs appear and then become a bit swirly.
If you touch the flake, a ghost appears and says "You made a mistake".

An improvement would be to make the pictures do something a bit more interesting than just move around, but I was just learning how to use Scratch.

Cockney rhyming slang used:
Raspberry tart - fart
Custard and jelly - telly
Jam-jar - car
Currant bun - The Sun
Apples and pears - stairs
Cadbury's Flake - mistake

If you have a MaKey MaKey and a raspberry tart, jelly and custard, jar of jam, currant bun, apples and pears, and a Cadbury's flake, you can also try this out. I have uploaded it to the Scratch website: Cockney rhyming slang. If you don't have a MaKey MaKey, you can try it by imagining you are touching the food, feeling the bounce of the jelly beneath your fingers, the gooeyness of the tart, the stickiness of the currant bun, and on your keyboard you can try pressing Up, Down, Left, Right, Space, and click your mouse.
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I made a festive jellyfish to hang on my tree on Wednesday at the MzTek Soft circuit Christmas decorations workshop. I learnt how to sew conductive thread into a circuit to make the LEDs light up. Interested to do some of their other workshops sometime.

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At UXCamp London 2011, I ran a discussion on "Recruiting participants from the cradle to the grave & beyond" as I wanted suggestions on where to recruit particular kinds of participants for usability testing. These are the suggestions people came up with:

Where to recruit children:
Youth clubs
Personal network
Community newsletters
Online games

Where to recruit adults:
Word of mouth
Special interest communities
Special clinics
Sign language classes

Where to recruit elderly people:
Age Concern
Social/community events
Care homes
Word of mouth
In the street

Where to recruit vampires/zombies/etc:
Special communities
Event in Reading - LARPers
Graveyards at night

Other things to consider:
"It will take twice to three times as long as you expect"
"Be flexible"
"Short periods of time"
"Cool product incentive"
"Combine with marketing"

Thanks for the suggestions all!

GameCamp 4

May. 16th, 2011 11:19 pm
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May 14th, 2011 saw GameCamp 4 happening in London's South Bank University. GameCamp is an unconference, similar to a BarCamp, where anyone can run a session on a topic of their choice, but GameCamp is obviously game themed. Participants of GameGamp 4 chose a room and a time, and then wrote the name of their session on a large white board.

It was the second GameCamp in London that I have attended. The first was in 2008 and I think was the first unconference I attended. Since then I have been to BarCamps in Bath, London, Manchester, and Southampton, StixCamp in Newstead (Australia), Trampoline in Melbourne (Australia), and UXCamp in London. This meant I had an idea of how things would work, but still did not know what any of the talks would be about.

After arriving at GameCamp 4, we were given Lego minifigs, which we were supposed to swap pieces of with other people to make the minifigs look more like ourselves.


A list of GameCamp 4 sessions is available on Lanyrd. These are the sessions I attended:

Distillation of Gameplay )

Sex (in games) )

A Gladiatorial session about Narrative )

Are games astronomy? )

Then there was lunch, which included aubergines, focaccia and Diet Coke. (Thank-you sponsors!)

User-Centred Design - Can it help games? )

Is Gamification Infectious? )

The Frontiers of Game Interaction )

The varieties of experiences: very different feelings playing all sorts of games )


GameCamp 4 ended with a wrap-up session and then headed to the Student Union for drinks. I then realised I had an old copy of Amiga Power in my bag and found that even though it was from 1995, it still made me laugh.

All the sessions I attended at GameCamp 4 were interesting and there were other sessions I wish I had attended also, but it is not possible to attend everything. It was great to catch up with old friends and meet cool new people and in general, I very much enjoyed GameCamp 4.
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My attention was drawn to tongue controlled devices by a story on Slashdot- Robotic "Tongue" Lets You French Kiss Over The Internet. The device was created at The University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo [1] and has a "motion-sensing receptacle that records your tongue's movements and then sends that information to a corresponding machine in your partner's mouth."

From searching, I found there are more serious applications of tongue controlled devices, such as ones created by groups at Aalborg University in Denmark and at Georgia Institute of Technology in the U.S.:

A group at Aalborg University in Denmark created a device [2] that allows users to type using the tongue. An activation unit is placed on the tongue itself, and a device with a key area and a mouse-pad area is put in the mouth and can be attached to the teeth. The user can then type by moving the tongue to the key area and the mouse-pad area.

At Georgia Institute of Technology in the U.S., the tongue drive system [3] has been created, which allows users to control devices using their tongue. A magnetic tracer is attached to the user's tongue and tongue movements are then translated into user-defined commands to control devices, such as a wheelchair. The tongue drive system was shown to allow users to perform complex tasks in a wheelchair, such as navigating through an obstacle course.


1. Diginfonews (2011, May 1). Kiss Transmission Device #DigInfo. YouTube. Retrieved May 4, 2011, from

2. Andreasen Struijk, L.N.S., Lontis, E.R., Bentsen, B., Christensen, H.V., Caltenco, H.A., & Lund, M.E. (2009). Fully integrated wireless inductive tongue computer interface for disabled people. Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, 2009. EMBC 2009. Annual International Conference of the IEEE, vol., no., pp.547-550, 3-6 Sept. 2009.

3. Xueliang Huo & Maysam Ghovanloo. (2010). Evaluation of a wireless wearable tongue–computer interface by individuals with high-level spinal cord injuries. Journal of Neural Engineering. 7 026008.
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A few years ago, I went to a few OpenStreetMap mapping parties. I was lent a GPS receiver device, as I did not have one of my own and enjoyed wandering around, noting down street names and creating tracks. Most of the area where I live now is mapped very well by OpenStreetMap, so there is no need for me to create tracks for it.

Instead, I decided to log all the roads or paths I walked up during February, as I was interested in seeing them on a map.

I used a Qstarz BT-Q1000 GPS travel recorder to log the tracks. I only turned it on when I walked up roads or paths I had not previously logged.

I connected the travel recorder to my computer via USB and then copied the tracks onto my computer using GPSBabel and this command:
gpsbabel -t -w -i mtk,erase -f /dev/ttyUSB0 -o gpx -F out.gpx

I then loaded the tracks into GPSVisualizer. Most of the time, I copied the tracks the GPS recorder had created onto a new map, so that it all looked neater.

Map of where I think I walked in February 2011.

Individual bits of map of areas where I walked:
Oxford )
Bristol )
Bath )
Swindon )
Didcot )
Cheltenham )
Kilcot )
Newent )
Ross-on-Wye )
Symonds Yat )
Puzzlewood )
Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail )
Gloucester )

Twitter bot

Mar. 2nd, 2011 10:25 am
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I decided to start learning Python by creating a Twitter bot. I have an online diary, that I have been keeping for over a decade now, and I decided that I would output lines from it as tweets, so that I could keep in touch with my younger self. If you want to see it in action: Echochild.

Things I found odd to start with in Python )

There are quite a few Python to Twitter packages, but in the end, I decided upon Tweepy.Installing Tweepy )

I formatted the diary entries, using Vi, so that there is just one sentence per line.

I got the appropriate authorisation tokens from Twitter: consumer token, consumer secret, etc.

Due to access restrictions, I am unable to run cron jobs or leave things running in the background, so concluded that being able to tweet just by going to a web page would do. Not quite automatic, but still, will do for now.

I then created a CGI script in the joshthecoder-tweepy-fcaff74 directory.CGI script )

The next thing to do is make it actually reply to people!
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Projects I am currently contemplating:

1. Using an Arduino and a moisture detector so that I know when to water my plants: Garduino: Gardening + Arduino and DIY Arduino-Based Plant Moisture Sensor.

2. Modifying a camera for infrared: IR Modification of the Nikon 4300.

3. Using a pinhole camera to make solargraphs: Solagraph Instructions.
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The real reason I started to look at location-based games again recently was because I tried the analogue version of the Drift Deck after reading about it on BLDBLOG a few weeks ago. The comments on the BLDBLOG article reveal that the creators are working on a digital version.

I started thinking about what other applications are out there that help exploration and discussed it with a friend, who suggested I needed an application that sends text messages to my phone to tell me to turn right, or look up at the sky, or whatever.

Foursquare and similar geo-social networking apps seem to be almost more like marketing devices than something that will really help you explore. Getting points for going to a café is probably not going to help me find a cool piece of graffiti or an interesting tree.

Geocaching is the obvious and well known one, but there are a lot of location based games out there. (See previous post on Location-based games.)

Is it a game that I really want though? Or perhaps something more like Flook is what I want.. But that's not quite it either. I want something perhaps a bit more prescriptive but without giving away the secrets beforehand (I don't want to see a picture of the graffiti before I get there), like an MP3 tour?

I think what I really want is Mundane Journeys as an application. Someone to tell me to "walk, bike or public transit" to a particular bit of graffiti, or a hotline I can call that tells me that. But perhaps that relies too much on having a trust-worthy person to tell me where to go, and is very location specific.

I read a few papers such as Augmenting Guy Debord’s Dérive: Sustaining the Urban Change with Information Technology, which were interesting.

I think maybe I want a combination of prescriptive travel (but not of the usual tourist places!), like in Mundane Journeys and a combination of the Drift Deck instructions (or experimental travel instructions - like Alternating Travel or Chance Travel) added together. I want to be told context aware stories or music if I happen to go to certain places also, like the tourist guide apps that do that kind of thing. (Although I could just stick to a simple MP3 tour for this?) Maybe also occasional dragons/augmented reality. Plus maybe a game too in case I get bored of just exploring? I'm not sure there is one particular app that will do all these things, but I suspect if I try out different ones, it will help me with my goal of exploring the world around me more.

These are the kind of applications I think I am looking for:
Serendipitor, part of the Sentient City Survival Kit.
Proposal for a psychogeographical iphone app.
Dot Walk.
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A few years ago, for my MSc in Human-Computer Interaction with Ergonomics, I did a project on pervasive games and immersion. The game I used for my study was a location-based game and at the time, phones with built in GPSs were less common than they are now. I started wondering how much location-based games had moved on since then and how popular they were now.

FourSquare is the game that sprung to mind to start with, and other similar games such as Gowalla, MyTown and BrightKite, but some of these are really just location based social networking (geo-social networking) as opposed to games.

I remembered playing mscape games, but they are no longer running. The future of mscape.

I started making my own list of location-based games.. Read more... )
I then found various lists: A list of location based mobile games, Location Based Social Networks, Location Based Social apps and games and there are also some listed in Wikipedia in the Location-based game entry. (Although most of those were listed there a few years ago, so aren't that new.)

For a lot of these games, I don't currently have the appropriate technology needed to play them, but hopefully one day I will. Not sure which I would play first though!
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Oxford UX Book Club met last Tuesday to discuss Undercover User Experience Design by Cennydd Bowles and James Box, which I found to be an interesting book. Al Power wrote notes.

The previous meeting of the book club happened in September and we discussed Ambient Findability by Peter Morville, which was also an enjoyable read.

I am unsure when the next meeting will be, but there is now a UK UX Events Calendar and a list of events (and a Twitter account: UK UX Events), so I can at least see what other UX events are happening around the UK.


Jan. 16th, 2011 10:28 pm
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When I first got an Arduino, I made the LED blink and read about all the cool things I could do with it in Making Things Talk and in various Instructables. I also heard about all the exciting things people at BarCamps were doing with Ardunios, but still I ignored mine.

Today, I actually plugged it in again, and yes, again all I have done is make the LED flash, but now it flashes when people say certain things on Twitter. (I read Adrian McEwan's How to Build a Twitter-monitoring Alertuino and used the Alertuino code.) A flashing LED is not quite as fun as bubbles being automatically blown, but it is a start.

I thought about making an end of the world detector, but people talk about the end of the world far too frequently on Twitter. Maybe I need to add a Geiger counter?

More Arduino related ideas: Top 40 Arduino Projects of the Web. Botanicalls Twittering Plants would be useful as I have a tendency to over water my plants. High speed photography would help me create awesome photos.
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Interesting links:

Let your beer mat do the talking. Smart beer mats which help shy pubgoers to interact with others.

Game on: When work becomes play. The gamification of everyday life.


Jan. 6th, 2011 01:37 pm
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After seeing an article on the toothpaste that changes flavours according to the weather, I began to look for other weather dependent products.

One of the many things the Nabaztag can do is tell you the weather.

Recommendations of what clothes to wear depending on the weather seem useful, and there are iPhone apps such as Feather Report that do this.

Umbrellas that change colour in the rain are available in the MoMA Store, but umbrellas with more features such as the Ambient Umbrella can make you aware of the forecast by glowing when rain or snow is forecast.

Weather dependent wallpaper is quite popular, but there are also suggestions of weather dependent music selections.

Various art and music projects involve the weather, such as Bruce Woolley's Electric Storm on London’s South Bank in 2004, which "featured a 24 hour interactive soundtrack & 40 loudspeakers across the post-war site, with lights, music and artificial fog created from water which was pumped from the Thames."

Variable 4's project in 2010, in Dungeness, Kent, used "meteorological sensors connected to a custom software environment developed by the artists, the wild weather conditions of the Kent coastland act as composer, navigating through a map of 24 specifically written movements."
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I found an old Delicious account of mine, full of links to testing tools and other testing related resources:

Delicious: jc2.
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Wrexham Cemetery has, as expected, gravestones written on them in Welsh, but what seemed unusual to me is that some gravestones had the addresses of where the people used to live before they died written on them. More information than I expected. This made me wonder if graves of the future will use technology to allow more information to be stored on them.

The National University of Singapore has a one day seminar on Afterlife and Death in a Digital Age in April: “As emergent technologies increasingly pervade people’s lives they are also increasingly a part of dying and of hopes and illusions of immortality and possible afterlife.”
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Today’s CAIR (Centre for Applied Internet Research) lunchtime seminar at Glyndŵr University was by Monir Bhuiyan, who gave an interesting talk on Gesture Controlled User Interfaces for Inclusive Design. The prototype application that has been created is open source and uses a webcam to allow elderly and disabled people (or anyone really) to use gestures to control applications via the television screen.

The abstract: Gesture Controlled User Interfaces for Inclusive Design.


Nov. 19th, 2009 11:28 am
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I attended the DAI09 Workshop on Designing Ambient Interactions for older users at the 3rd European Conference on Ambient Intelligence (AmI09) in Salzburg. Slides from my presentation: Simplicity, Consistency, Universality and Familiarity: Applying SCUF Principles to Technology for Assisted Living.

April 2014



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