Sculpted Computational Objects with Smart and Active Computing Materials

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Abstract: This thesis presents the creative, technological, and philosophical means and methodology, by which technology artists and researchers can materially and sculpturally transform physical computing technology from hard, remotely-designed, plastic shells, into intimately created, sensual computing objects and artifacts. It asserts that the rigid, square, and prefabricated physical materials of computing technology are a fundamental technological and artistic limitation to anyone who wishes to sensually transform physical computing technology, or develop a rich artistic vocabulary for it. Smart and active sculptural computing materials are presented as a solution to this problem. Practically, smart computing materials reduce the number of separate, rigid, and square prefabricated parts required to create physical computing objects. Artistically, active sculptural computing materials give artists and designers the ability to directly manipulate, shape, experiment with, and therefore aesthetically understand the real, physical materials ofovelty yarns and e-textile kits that enable the crafting of electronic textile devices. computing technology. Such active design materials will also enable creative people to develop a meaningful artistic relationship between physical form and computation.

The total contributions of this thesis include a proposal for a future three-dimensional design/technology practice, a portfolio of sensually transformed expressive computational objects (including new physical interfaces, electronic fashions, and embroidered musical instruments), and the smart and active sculptural computing materials and processes (in this case smart textiles), which make that transformation possible. Projects from the design portfolio include: The Triangles, and its applications; Electronic Fashions, including the Firefly Dress and Necklace, New Yearís Eve Ball Gown, and Serial Suit; The Musical Jacket; Electronic Tablecloths; and a series of Embroidered Musical Instruments with embroidered pressure sensors. Contributions from the supporting technical area include: the first fabric keypad (a row and column switch matrix), a new conductive yarn capable of tying and electrical/mechanical knot, an advanced process for machine embroidering highly conductive, flexible and visually diverse electrodes, an empirical model of complex impedance sensing, and a definition of and test for the machine sewability and flexibility of yarns. These contributions are presented in three sections: 1) the supporting arguments, and philosophy of materiality and computation behind this work, 2) the design portfolio, and 3) the supporting technical story.

Thesis Supervisor: Tod Machover
Title: Professor of Music and Media


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