NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) is a two-year graduate course for programmers, artists and inventors. Yesterday, we visited ITP's Spring Show, an energetic mixture of around 100 projects that ranged from regenerative bike brakes, to a Steampunk-style desk whose many drawers revealed sections of a projected novel in verse, to a taxidermied raccoon with robotic legs (above).
After the jump, some of our favorites, including a new toy for the iPad, and a tree as jumpy on a cat on his first day home from the pound.
1. Pressure-Sensitive iPad Touchscreen
Mike Knuepfel showed off his digital signet rings at ITP in December, which introduced an innovative, jewelry-inspired method of unlocking the iPhone. Yesterday, he showed the Sound Stylus, a new device whose goal is to extend the capacities of the capacitive touchscreen.
The idea is simple: it's a pressure-sensitive stylus for the iPad. As you adjust the level of force with which the stylus touches the screen, the pressure itself converts to sound at the end of the stylus. The sound travels by wire through the iPad's headphone jack and adjusts the width of the line you're drawing accordingly. This pressure system is an alternative to the system the iPad currently uses, which interprets the changing surface area of your finger and its length of time in one place instead of pressure.
Why would you want one? Well, for artists and the like — who need to simulate a variety of tools — adding pressure sensitivity would help recreate the feeling of using, say, a brush. Just think of what clever app designer could do with the thing, too.
Below is a video of several of Mike's touchscreen-related projects, including console-conroller style buttons for the iPhone.
2. Interactive Surround Sound Layering for Tots
Brett Murphy, a former sound designer, was inspired by his young nieces and nephews to make one of the most crowd-pleasing projects at the ITP show. SoundStage is a table that recognizes images on the bottom of several dozen toys, and associates each one with a noise (violin, drums, airplane, taxi, chicken, cat). When the object is placed on the table, the accompanying sound plays on the eight surround sound speakers in the room. The result can be cacophonous, or strangely pleasing, as the volume and speed of the noise react to the toy's distance from the center of the table and its speed.
3. The Skittish Tree
This somewhat eerie looking, projected tree-in-a-box startles at loud noise. Its branches blow away from you, and if you yell loudly enough, it will lose the leaves that it grows when you leave it alone for a few minutes. See more from its creator, Martin Bravo Moreno, by clicking this link
No assortment of digital inventions would be complete without its collection of robots. At the ITP show, the programming in the robots overall was somewhat less advanced than much of the programming that got other gadgets to work, and sometimes the physical details just hadn't been perfected over the course of a semester. Yesterday, a robot named Mr. Michael Bugson was barely tottering around, while the taxidermied raccoon at top (called a Fixed Procyon Lotor Mechanism) was sequestered and still in a glass case.
One friendly robot we did meet was the WiggleBot, described as a toy for kids without pets. WiggleBot uses various sensors so that it turns on its own when it encounters an obstacle, and it manages to be completely transparent and mechanistic-looking while being disarmingly cute.
5. Headphones for Talking to Yourself
Finally, the Cell(f) was a Dada-inspired project that stole our hearts. Filipa Tomaz fitted headset with one working cellphone attached to each ear. One cellphone calls the other so that you can talk to yourself, slightly awkward sound delay and all. The phones only call each other. Useful? No. But, like most of the inventions at ITP, weirdly and surprisingly fun.
The ITP Spring Show 2011 continues Tuesday, May 17 from 5-9 p.m. More details here