Soft Interface

The interactive aspect of the pavilion has focused around the idea of “soft interface.” We consider this to be a key component of the soft city in general, and will use the pavilion as a chance to try to better define what it means for an interface to be soft. Preliminary schematics for this include the adaptability, plasticity, self-learning, tactility, embeddedness of an interface within a system. Considerations for the soft interface prototype in the pavilion could address sound, sight, text, or touch.

Prof. Sean Ahlquist at the University of Michigan is working on some very relevant research to this idea of soft interface, including his recent project “Social Sensory Surfaces” which:

looks to develop new material technologies as tactile interfaces designed to confront critical challenges of learning and social engagement for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)…The project connects expertise and technology in textile structures and CNC knitting, programming of gestural and tactile input devices, and design of haptic and visual interfaces for enhanced musical expression. With textiles, the tactile interface is expanded in scale, from wearables to environments and varied in types of input for human-computer interactions. The textiles are tailored for gradations of touch and pressure sensitive input from large sweeping gestures to fine touch, calibrated to prompt a wide variety of response.

In considering how to implement a tactile system such as this as part of the inflatable system, we are considering two possibilities. The first would be to use barometric pressure sensors inside the inflatable to sense if a given inflatable has been squeezed. Though potentially quite simple to implement, obvious disadvantage of this approach is very low resolution (1 pixel!) and would require the  use of relatively small inflatable pillows. A second approach, which seems to pick up on the approach described in Prof. Ahlquist’s project, would be to employ stretch sensors integrated into the inflatable fabric to register pressing touch across a surface. Conductive rubber cord (from Adafruit) organized in a grid) is one relatively cheap system to achieve this. Here is a link from taobao.

And some more links for soft circuitry and other sensitive fabrics:


Air Quality Sensing DIY

Some great projects regarding air quality sensing.

1) A really beautiful project from 2013 called FLOAT: Air Quality Monitoring Kites in Beijing by Deren Guler and Xiaomei Wang:


2) Air Quality Balloon


3) Air Quality Sensor Setup:


Arduino Basics (Automated Inflation)

(The first foray into Arduino programming. Pretty much following built-in examples for driving DC motors and reading analog sensors (here a IR distance sensor). The fan here was nowhere near powerful enough to inflate even a small garbage bag, but I think the principle is useful, and hopefully this is the start of a series of experiments.

And a couple useful links for future development: