Tag Archives: ECAL

Lazy Pen combines word processing with the personal touch of handwriting


This project distorts your typeface as you write using moving palettes placed beneath your palms.


With the advent of digital technology, it’s safe to say that cursive writing has become a lost art — no longer used by adults, most likely not being taught to children. It’s a shame, though, as there’s just something about the emotional aspect associated with putting a pen to paper.

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After receiving several notes from his grandmother, Maker Nicolas Nahornyj decided to combine the practical side of computer-based word processing with the personal touch of a good ol’ handwritten letter. To accomplish this, he developed a keyboard extension that allowed him to modulate his writing and produce his own typography in real-time.

Created at ECAL, the aptly named Lazy Pen enables him to distort the typeface as he writes using a set of moving palettes placed beneath his palms that transform “vertical and horizontal motions into kneecap movements.” The project is comprised of two parts: a removable recessed block for the keyboard and a desk with two trestles and a drawer for his MacBook. Meanwhile, a pair of joysticks taken from a remote control plane are used to accurately log the data.

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“When you move your finger left or right on this keyboard, all the keys move like the Ondes Martenot music instrument,” the Maker explains.

In order to define the basic makeup of each letter, he devised a Processing application that allowed him to manipulate and modify their shapes. He then connected the app to an Arduino board tasked with collating and converting the raw analog data from the joysticks into digital information that could be interpreted by the “Adobe Illustrator-like software.”

Intrigued? Check out the Maker’s project page here, or see it in action below!

Nelson is a Arduino-powered, Wi-Fi connected device


Nelson is a tiny connected module designed to bring everyday objects to life, remotely.


With so many gizmos and gadgets becoming connected these days, sometimes it’s the simplistic ideas that stand out the most. Take Nelson, for example. Created by interaction designer Maxime Castelli, the tiny Wi-Fi module enables you to remotely control the mundane tasks in your everyday life. Need to feed the cat? Start the coffee machine as you wake up? Water the plants while away? This mechanism, though basic, can take care of all that for you.

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Nelson is nothing more than an Arduino-powered robotic helper that’s based on the back and forth motion, like pushing a switch. Being wirelessly connected to the Internet allows you to control it from afar using an accompanying mobile app, along with pre-defined triggers that require just a push of a button. The project works seamlessly with your Wi-Fi devices, moving its little rod to and fro’ to carry out a variety of functions, which range from steeping the perfect cup of tea to turning on a fan.

Completed with the help of fellow designer Arthur Didier, Nelson is driven by an embedded Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4) that is linked to Wi-Fi via a ESP8266 module with a servo motor. The app itself was made with openFrameworks. Intrigued? Check out the project’s official page here, or see its different use cases in action below.

This wireless iPhone charger is also a work of art

Developed as part of a diploma project by a University of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts (ECAL) student, Spira is a magnetic docking station that wirelessly restores power to an iPhone while turning the device into a decorative wall clock.

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Described by its creator Alica Robbiani as an interactive picture, charger and clock, Spira was built around an [Atmel based] Arduino board and the principle of inductive charging. Utilizing a blend of wood, metal and plastic, the Maker sought to devise an ambient frame that would enable a magnetized iPhone case to hang decoratively on the wall thereby giving it a “place of honor in the home atmosphere.”

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When attached in the upright position, the iPhone displays a set of animated white circles on the screen, each representing 10% of its battery level until fully charged. Users can also manually shift the position of the phone on the frame to display a wall clock. By rotating the phone, clock hands are revealed, projecting the current time.

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“The telephone puts aside its usual functions and reinvents itself to become a key: its presence allows energy to spread to make the (heat-sensitive) painting react.”

Thermochromic paint is used as visual feedback, the Maker reveals. The color of the ink changes in correlation with varying temperatures, which enables the wall-mounted device to emit a new image inside the frame. Once the all-in-one structure is unplugged, the paint then returns to its starting color.

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“The way of charging changes completely, and in spite of the power of gravity, we are challenged to let the telephone hung up, keeping us informed of the current time and state of the battery,” Robbiani writes. “The telephone puts aside its usual functions and reinvents itself to become a key: its presence allows energy to spread to make the (heat-sensitive) painting react. This is how a new image appears.”

Intrigued by this project? Hurry over to its official page here. In the meantime, you may also want to check out fellow ECAL design student Pauline Saglio’s recent creation: a unique series of three digital/analog hybrid clocks in an effort to meld the digital world with the analog act of winding a clock.