In honor of World Book Day, here are some Maker innovations that are redefining storytelling…
They say stories can come to life, and well, these projects have taken that saying to an entirely new level.
Jonathan Zufi’s coffee table book entitled “ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation” is the ultimate must-have for any Apple aficionado. The hardcover recounts the past 30 years of Apple design, exploring some of the most visually appealing and significant products ever created by the Cupertino-based company. The commemorative piece features a special white clamshell case along with a custom PCB configured to pulse embedded LEDs — like that of a sleeping older generation Apple notebook when moved — controlled by an Atmel 8-bit AVR RISC-based MCU.
The brainchild of Disney Research, HideOut explores how mobile projectors can enable new forms of interaction with digital content projected on everyday objects such as books, walls, game boards, tables, and many others. The smartphone-sized device enables seamless interaction between the digital and physical world using specially formulated infrared-absorbing markers – hidden from the human eye, but visible to a camera embedded in a compact mobile projection device. Digital imagery directly augments and responds to the physical objects it is projected on, such as an animated character interacting with printed graphics in a storybook.
Created by Fabio Lattanzi Antinori, Dataflags is a narrative series of artwork 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 powered by Bare Conductive’s incredibly-popular Touch Board (ATmega32U4) 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.
Have you ever judged a book by its cover? Well, Amsterdam creative studio Moore is turning the tables on the old-school idiom by designing a sleeve equipped with an integrated camera and facial-recognition technology that scans the face of whoever comes near. The idea behind the aptly named Cover That Judges You was to build a book cover that is human and approachable-hi-tech. If someone conveys too much emotion – whether overexcitement or under-enthusiasm — the book will remain locked. However, if their expression is free of judgement, the system will send an audio-pulse to an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and the book will unlock itself. The built-in camera is positioned at the top of the book’s sleeve, above a screen that feeds back the image when it detects a face in close proximity. Artwork featuring abstract facial features is displayed on the cover so that the user can line up their eyes, nose and mouth in the optimum position. Once the correct alignment is obtained, the screen turns green and a signal is relayed to the Arduino that opens the metal lock.
A team of MIT students unveiled a wearable book that uses networked sensors and actuators to create a sort of cyberpunk-like Neverending Story, blurring the line between the bodies of a reader and protagonist. The sensory fiction project — which built around James Tiptree’s “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” – was designed by Felix Heibeck, Alexis Hope, Julie Legault and Sophia Brueckner in the context of MIT’s Science Fiction To Science Fabrication class. The “augmented book” portrays the scenery and sets the mood, while its companion vest enables the reader to experience the protagonist’s physiological emotions unlike ever before. The wearable — controlled by an [Atmel based] Arduino board — swells, contracts, vibrates, heats up or cools down as the pages of the book are turned. Aside from 150 programmable LEDs to create ambient light based on changing setting and mood, the book/wearable support a number of outputs, including sound, a personal heating device to change skin temperature, vibration to influence heart rate, and a compression system to convey tightness or loosening through pressurized airbags.
In an effort to bring more interaction to story time, Northwood’s Childrens Museum in Wisconsin created a storytelling tree capable of reading along with you. The old computers inside the the museum display were retrofitted with a Touch Board (ATmega32U4) from Bare Conductive. 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.” Unlike its embedded predecessor, the MCU 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.
Makers Israel Diaz and Ingrid Ocana were on a mission to find new ways to bring children closer to the vast universe of reading. In doing so, the duo figured out a new way to enhance a traditional book with basic electronic components and some Arduino Uno (ATmega328) programming to interact with user intervention through simple built-in sensors, AC motors, LEDs and speakers.
Night Sun is an interactive audiovisual installation which tells a story with the turn of a music box handle, powered by an ATmega32U4 MCU. In order to bring his idea to fruition, the Maker commissioned an Arduino Micro to control the exhibit. The Arduino was instructed to send a ‘play’ command to a computer when it sensed the touch of a passerby. Once the wired music box handle was turned, the window would light up. A pre-recorded sound would then send a signal to the computer and begin playing… and just like that, the story unfolds.
A Maker by the name of Antonella Nonnis recently devised a unique interactive electronic book powered by two ATmega168 based boards. The book, titled “Music, Math, Art and Science,” was inspired by the work of Munari, Montessori and Antonella’s very own mother. The book contains movable parts and uses the electrical capacitance of the human body to activate sounds and lights and other sensors like a button for the math page. Comprised of recycled materials, the book is powered by a pair of Arduino Diecimila, which control the paper pop-up piano and the other controls the arts and science page.
Footprints – which was prototyped using an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) – can best be described as a network of interactive soft puppets that help create and share illustrated stories. Designed by Simone Capano, the project links various aspects of a child’s life, including school and family, by collecting and storing relevant data in the cloud. Footprints is typically initiated by a parent. Using a smartphone, the parent can record a little vocal story, add some images proposed by Footprints about the story that was just told, like the story’s characters or other objects related to it. Afterwards, the parent can send it all to the child’s puppet. The child can then listen to the story by placing the puppet on the tablet and playing with the images he or she has received to create a drawing about the story. Once the drawing is complete, Footprints send it back to the parent who then tracks the path of the stories shared with a child via the smartphone app.
Created by Bertrand Lanthiez, Hvísl is described as “an invitation to both a visual and audible journey.” Pre-recorded sounds from Icelandic atmospheres are emitted with the help of electronic sensors hidden in some pages connected to a MaKey MaKey board (ATmega32U4). These effects accompany the reading and the contemplation of pictures from the country’s landscape.
Tired of having to reread pages in because you forgot which paragraph you left off on? Devised by 7Electrons, the aptly named eBookmark is envisioned to serve as a bridge between analog and digital worlds. The device — which is based on an 8-bit AVR MCU, various Adafruit components, 16 tiny LEDs and a resistive touch strip — allows the reader to save his or her place on the page, and with a switch, also select the left or right page. The top portion of the eBookmark extends for use with larger books.
Who could forget those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books that became popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s? The series of children’s gamebooks where each story is written from a second-person point of view, with the reader assuming the role of the protagonist and making choices that determine the main character’s actions and the plot’s outcome. Similarly speaking, software developer Jerry Belich has created an interactive arcade machine that works on the same premise. The Choosatron is an interactive fiction machine that lets users select the story, while it prints out a transcript of the chosen story paths. In essence, the machine is a cardboard box with a small thermal printer, a coin acceptor, a keypad, an SD memory card and an Arduino-compatible board.