How it was born
#SOME is the brainchild of two guys from FabLab Pisa that, talking about electronics, design and “things”, have wondered: is it possible to build something that becomes any “object”? Is it possible to build a generic object that the user shapes to his liking?
To answer this question, we decided to ask around launching a session of “problem solving” shared on the Leaning Lab (The Living Lab of Pisa). As previously done for OneIdeaXDay and other campaigns of “ideas generation” we have launched a very generic discussion that trasmitted a very little of the idea, in order not to mislead the creative process or, even worse, preclude any inventive impulses. The aim was to understand the appeal that could have an object that, once possessed, it could be edited and customized (within the limits of its basic features). But, even more important, we wanted to understand what people expected from this “proto-thing” We invited several members from the academic world, and beyond, and 105 people participated in a collaborative brainstorming on the web.
The topic was the following:
SOME: Social emotional device – The Internet of Things.
The object of the discussion is SOME, a smart device that through a connection to the most famous social networks, can provide services to users by using information from multiple domains. The challenge is to develop a dynamic object that can not only communicate its status, but it can also change it depending on the stimuli detected from the environment and from the connected network.
The purpose of this discussion is to identify ideas for possible uses and applications of SOME given the constraints described.
The development of computer technology has made possible the extension of the Internet to the world of objects, through which they acquire the ability to communicate and share information with each other, reacting with a behavior that is apparently emotionally.
The team wants to build a physical smart device that through a connection to the most famous social networks, can provide services to users by using information from multiple domains.
The purpose of this discussion is to identify ideas for possible uses and applications of SOME given the constraints described below.
SOME has several sensors that detect environmental conditions.
Possible Input: light, temperature, sound, touch, information from social networks.
Possible Output: Lights, sounds, smells, information to social networks.
The success of SOME, which is born as an open source project, will be able to mold to the user’s needs who can change its behavior to suit every purpose.
The successful solution will: collect new ideas and opinions focusing on the design and possible “emotional” behaviors that each of us might want from the use of SOME. With regard to these choices suggest us its application context.
The following elements are not of interest: A study of the technical aspects and design is not requested in this phase of the project.
Discussion screenshot on Leaning Lab Forum
The conversation had a limited duration of one week, at the end of which the users had posted 96 contributions. The contributions were analyzed by the FabLab Team, that identified four possible solutions: 2 immediately achievable with the available Fablab technology, and two feasible but not at the moment. We then selected which of the two “feasible” solutions to present #SOME at Pisa Green Tech Festival, but without precluding future development of the others.
SOME could be a social network extension into the physical world. Some can read our Twitter, Facebook and other social network profiles looking for particular words or tags. If We receive in our social profiles new messages containing the selected tags, #SOME behavior will change becoming happier as we usually do in real conversion when we receive positive feedbacks from our interlocutors.In the mean time #SOME will act on the network as a sort of network connected Tamagotchi which posts on our social profile the result of its real physical interaction with people. For example if SOME lives in an office it could be happy to infer from the sound level and illumination changes that there are people working and it is not alone so its color become soft and warm and its mood happier posting it on the network. But #SOME can also be frustrated by noise; if someone talks too aloud #SOME is frustrated because the noise can be annoying for other workers and it will turns its color to blue or similar cold colors and behaves posting also on the company profile something like: hey it is too noisy here!! #SOME is physical, it likes to be touched, since touch sense is the most important social interaction channel.#SOME can also be used as an alarm to remind us facebook events on which we decided to participate, new email on gmail, new tweets etc etc. Thanks to its architecture and customizability, #SOME can also be used to hack common objects that are usually static or less intelligent, and not designed to be fused with the network shared “cumulative and collective” intelligence. Actually cumulative means something generated by using the entire set of #SOME spread all over the world, while collective means that my #SOME can exploit the ability and power of the “minds” of other #SOMEs located elsewhere and in ideal conditions. Let’s think to your Roomba or Virobi cleaning robot that will read your profile inferring that this evening you organized a last second diner and it cleans your kitchen and living room!!!
We then proceeded to work on the real prototype of # SOME. The team was divided into several groups: mechanical design and 3D printing, software and electronics, Viral Marketing. We decided to present # SOME in three different variants.
Design of the mechanical interface and production
The shape of the case of #SOME was studied in order to guide user actions. Actually the idea was to create a case able to afford connection, therefore among the numerous ideas (i.e. LEGO brick shape, plug shape, etc..) the puzzle shape was chosen. Actually such a shape induce “assembly” actions. Moreover three different names have been engraved on upper surface of the case: awe, some, thing. Even they can be mounted in every position, the only solutions that make sense are the following: awe-some, something and we coined also awe-some-thing, meaning something really awesome. All the other possible mechanical connections do not make sense, therefore also the behavior must be strange with respect to standard correct behaviors.
Rendering of the three joined #SOME objects
Software development and electronics
#SOME has been based on Arduino UNO electronic platform integrated with Arduino Ethernet shield for internet connection. #SOME has been integrated with various sensors and actuators developing a custom made interface board based on Arduino proto Shield. In order to allow invited students to easily work with #SOME electronic and sensors no SMD components and PCB fabrication technologies have been used.
Sound sensor: Electret Microphone by SparkFun https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9964
Temperature sensor: LM35DZ http://www.robot-italy.net/downloads/lm35.pdf
Light sensor: photo resistor http://www.sparkfun.com/datasheets/Sensors/Imaging/SEN-09088-datasheet.pdf
Vibro call (disassembled from a mobile phone)
#SOME during test and assembly
#SOME software is C++ code for Arduino-compatible microcontrollers developed to empower physical objects with custom-made behaviours. It is based on an object oriented architecture that links sensor inputs to actuator’s status changes via behavioural functions. Due to Arduino’s space and computational constraints, the current version is not as general-purpose as possible. We are working on version 2.0 that will feature a virtual machine for an ad hoc programming language targeted to more performant architectures (Arduino Due, Maple, RasperryPI,…)
#SOME 1.0 main loop logic goes like this:
update the senses
call the condition function for each behaviour that modifies the associated actuator status according to senses values
call the actuator update method that will bring the actuator to a new status as linear interpolation of the status requested by each behaviour.
Code, drawings and stl files have been released with MIT license on the FabLab Pisa repository https://github.com/fablabpisa/Some
The behavior of #SOME
#SOME was developed to have some sort of emotional intelligence-led social interactions. The “state of mind” of #SOME is expressed according to the theory of emotional space defined by Russell in 1980 and known as “The circumplex model of affect.” Russell suggested to dispose emotions in a three-dimensional Cartesian space whose variables are: pleasantness, activity and dominance. The theory of Russel therefore allows to significantly reduce the complication of emotional spaces by reducing them to a space governed by only three variables. This theory has often been applied to robotics so emotional as reported in a work performed by FACE Team where a humanoid robot is controlled on the basis of the theory of Posner.
The emotions of # SOME are expressed by a two-dimensional space where only the pleasure and excitement variables were considered. Each event, as a touch or the arrival of a new tweet containing the hashtag #SOME, causes an increase in pleasure and excitement according to factors that we have identified in a very empirical way to give to #SOME an acceptable behavior, similar to real affective interactions.
However, pleasure and excitement decreases with time according to an exponential decay that leads to the “depressed” state of #SOME if left alone or if it does not receive feedback on Twitter and Facebook. The decrease of the pleasure and excitement is faster at temperatures below 18 degrees. #SOME is definitely an object with a Mediterranean profile!
The presence of people in the room, thanks to the sound sensor and the light sensor behaves in a similar way to what we said above. The light excites #SOME, leaving unchanged the pleasure of the emotion.
#SOME reacts in a different manner with respect to AweSomeThing
As shown in the above picture, the behavior of a #SOME composition of objects (for example Awe, Some, and Thing joined) is different, due to the social implications of the union. Obviously, the behavior proposed here and shown is just an example of possible customizations of the system that can be easily edited by any user without requiring a rewrite of the software but only by changing the parameters of “weight” of the events due to interactions of the variables “pleasure” and “excitement”. Such variables affect both the color and the brightness speed of change.