Bare Conductive’s Touch Board is bringing stories to life


Isn’t reading much more fun when it’s interactive? 


Who remembers the 2008 flick Bedtime Stories starring Adam Sandler? The movie centered around a hotel handyman, whose life changes when the lavish nighttime tales he tells his niece and nephew start to magically come true. And while literally bringing fantasy to life may be impossible, Bare Conductive is helping to enable the next best thing with its Touch Board (ATmega32U4) with a pair of recent exhibits.

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First, Dataflags is a narrative series of artwork created by Fabio Lattanzi Antinori that explores the financial troubles of corporations as they head towards bankruptcy, while highlighting the pivotal role data plays in today’s society. The piece, which was originally displayed in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum back in September 2014, was brought to life through Bare Conductive’s incredibly-popular ATmega32U4 MCU Touch Board and some Electric Paint. The printed sensors were concealed by a layer of black ink, and when touched, triggered a selection of financial trading data theatrically sung by an opera performer.

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“Dataflags is a series of works I am creating that deal with the notion of failing; they represent fragile corporate flags that celebrate the ups and downs of those corporations that were thought to be invincible but went bankrupt. Lehman Brothers, in this context, made up for a very good candidate, yet there are others which will be explored in the next artworks,” Antinori told Bare Conductive.

In order to program the Touch Board to announce various sets of numbers each time the sensors were touched, a series of voices were prerecorded ahead of time. The code then reassembled each sample in real-time depending on the set of figures that corresponded to the daily history of the company’s share prices.

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Similar to a number of other forms of art which require engagement from a participating audience, the ATmega32U4 based board would only trigger sound when a passerby interacted with the exhibit. “One could say that there would be no work at all without the intervention of the public, which is a continuation of the metaphorical aspect of the piece,” Antinori added.The flags themselves were comprised of somerset paper, as it “preserved a sense of heritage to which we all relate.” According to the Maker, it was the perfect material to represent a flag, given that it appears solid and eternal, yet it fragile and ephemeral, especially when it is meant to be touched by hundreds of people.

Next, The Northwood’s Childrens Museum in Wisconsin recently created a storytelling tree capable of reading along with you. The old computers inside the the museum display were retrofitted with an ATmega32U4 based board. In fact, this was a welcomed replacement as one staff member said that the computers “broke constantly and hogged power, keeping us from updating sounds files periodically throughout the year.”

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Unlike its embedded predecessor, the Touch Board allowed sound files to be changed in an expedited manner, and was slim enough to nestle neatly into the trunk’s design. And what would a treehouse-like exhibit be without a makeshift walkie talkie comprised of cans strung together? Creatively, a set of headphones were also placed inside the can to make it exciting for participants to listen to the story.

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As previously explored on Bits & Pieces and seen inside Atmel Maker Faire booths around the world, Bare Conductive continues to inspire and enable Makers to transform touch into sound in countless ways. We can only imagine what Makers will think of next! Interested in learning more? You can head over to the team’s official page here.

2 thoughts on “Bare Conductive’s Touch Board is bringing stories to life

  1. Pingback: 6 projects that redefine storytelling | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

  2. Pingback: 11 projects that are redefining storytelling | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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