The third module is over and so are the demo days. All the prototypes, reports and progress pictures are done and the result was staggering. As each group presented their view of their first ever client’s assignment, satisfied faces walked away after, knowing they did well. A sense of relief could be felt throughout the room once the flash drive with the PowerPoint presentation was taken out of the computer in the Amfitheater in the Vrijhof. To wrap up this module neatly, I made an overview of three outstanding projects.
21st Century Robot
First off, there is something typically CreaTe, which means doing something in a different way than the industry tells you to. In this case, it is working the wrong way around. The 21st Century Robot project did just that. Commissioned by the University of Twente’s own Edwin Dertien on behalf of Robots and Mechatronics, the assignment was to find out how a twenty-first century robot should really look like and how it would be designed. Spoiler: surprisingly, it’s quite humanoid.
The group, consisting of Simona Vasiljeva, Inti Bistolfi, Dennis Müller, Paco Verhoef and Judith Kampen, took it upon themselves to design a robot that is suitable for everyone through a storytelling approach. This means that the team interviewed a couple of people of every age category about what they think is the perfect robot and allowing them to visualise this view. Combining the similarities between these groups and their views allows the team to find the robot of today.
The groups were children, high school students, university students, adults and elderly. This roughly covers most parts of well-spread demographic based research. Children, aged four to eight years old, were interviewed in small groups to avoid conflicts and make the interview more comfortable and less intimidating. They were asked to express themselves in whatever way they like, since they may not know how to do so in words.
The results came down to something we all could have guessed; boys want a superhero-like robot while girls want a best friend to play with and do girl things. What is surprising, however, is that adults generally don’t want their robot to be a friend, but more an integrated version of a butler. The actual results are far more elaborate just like the manner of which the information was gathered.
Next, there is something all about integration, a pillar of Creative Technology and the Internet of Things: everything should fit, yet contribute to wherever it is it blend into. The Smart Garden team – Yes, “Smart”, how unsurprisingly default – is made up of five people: Max Pijnappel, Sofie van den Berg, Titas Krisciunas and Frederick ter Haar. Shamelessly I am going to admit that I am part of this project, too. Anyway, Smart Garden is a way of growing vegetables and herbs in your own kitchen. Commissioned by an external client, Ramon Masius, the goal was to downscale a high pressure aeroponics system to household size. High pressure aeroponics, in a nutshell, means spraying a fine mist onto a plants barren roots to increase growing speed.
Simple enough. However, most machines that do this are of industrial sizes and not suited for an average household. With all the pressure mechanics, design aspects and required user interaction and knowledge downscaled to the size of refrigerator, this project was a great success. It should fit in any average kitchen being refrigerator-sized, sustaining a family throughout the year with fresh veggies and spices.
A part of the special bit about this project is the way of interacting with it. Through a Tamagotchi-like application made in Unity, the users can monitor their system. The conditions, humidity, light intensity and amount of nutrition, are represented by a glass of water, a sunflower and a dinner plate, respectively. There is a character that walks between the objects and talks to the user. This simple interface allows children to learn about plants and how to take care of them. The client was happily surprised by the way the team has elaborated on a simple downscaling project.
Dream of Flight
Last but certainly not least, there is the Dream of Flight team in collaboration with Wowlab, a small but popular FabLab in Enschede. This team – Fredrika Aström, Gijs Van Rhijn, Ikmareka Hunt, Maaike Keurhorst and Nora Tunc – have outdone themselves and deserve the positive tag “Something Different”. The name of the team sparked quite some curiosity within me: how did they translate flight into something first year students could have made? This was answered with a hands-on experience with the Dream of Flight simulation: a wonderful combination of Unity, Oculus Rift VR, a custom made sensor and… a fan.
This flight simulation takes you through a fantasy-like landscape with wings on your character’s back. You control those wings by breathing. The custom made breathing sensor around your stomach changes its output when you breathe in or out. The output goes to Unity, which moves your wings every time you do so. The amazing graphics of the project with the wind of the fan going through my hair made for a wonderful experience.
I spoke to Frederika about the concept. She said: “The concept is pretty simple: we wanted to create a flight simulation that could be enjoyed by all. Using VR seemed like an obvious choice since the technology offers a highly immers
ive experience. We found that many current flight simulators focused on combat situations, or required complicated user interaction. Although they offered highly realistic simulations, they could exclude people with lesser Virtual Reality or gaming experience. Therefore, we chose to make The Dream of Flight a fun, light-hearted and relaxing experience.”
In my personal opinion, this is something that can be expanded even further. It has a lot of potential to grow, given the right resources and a lot of time. Currently the simulation allows only forward movement, but with a bit of investment and added scripting, steering shouldn’t be too difficult either. Making it a 3D experience should unlock a lot of now unused potential.
It was a very interesting module with a lot of sweat, hopefully little blood and possibly some tears. Luckily it is safe to say that it has been a successful one. Onto the next one we go.