Cesar Torres on Actuators at TEI

03 May, 2019

Cesar Torres on Actuators at TEI

César Torres received a Spring 2019 BCNM Conference Grant to help cover his costs attending the Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction conference in Tempe, Arizona. César presented "A Conversation with Actuator." Read more about his experience in his own words below!

The ACM International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI) features a community of artists, designers, engineers, and scientists at the forefront of tangible computing. Held in sunny Tempe, Arizona, the conference brought together delegates from around the world to tackle this year's theme – hybrid materials --- a call to explore "hybridity, whether through material explorations of composites such as bioelectronic, on-body, or active materials, or theoretical inquiries into socio-technical systems as hybrid assemblies."

This year, on behalf of the Hybrid Ecologies Lab, I presented and demoed A Conversation with Actuators, a physical workstation for working with electronic components commonly used to alter the physical environment via light, motion, pressure, or sound. The work explored ways of materializing the digital signal used to control actuators in ways that support a working style common among material practitioners. In this plug-and-play station, a user can power and control many different kinds of actuators and explore how different signals alter the behaviors of these components using touch gestures. As this demo was whirring, swirling, and flashing with conversation, the rest of the conference was abuzz.

Other exciting work included:

  • Laura Devendorf, BCNM DE alumna, demonstrated her expanding expertise in fiber arts techniques to create color-changing and touch-sensing smart textiles.

  • A thought-provoking reflection titled "When is it not Craft?", presented by Michael Nitsche (Georgia Tech Digital Media) aimed to disambiguate the role of craft in interaction design. Nitsche & Weisling propose mediation (whether the material at hand has been transcoded through digital technology) and material encounter (whether the tool enables listening to a material) as two such differentiating factors.

  • Featuring a collection of "Expressive Tactile Controls", Hayeon Hwang (NYU ITP Program) demonstrated how electromechanics could be used to expand the repertoire of button behaviors. Check out her site to view her creations ranging from impatient buttons that move at the slightest touch to timid buttons that quiver at the thought of being pushed.

TEI also included a night of live performance at the Tempe Center for the Arts featuring a sonic-cyborg performance, a machine tango, and "speech bubbles" - soap bubbles of different sizes that float through space created by a speech-triggered dynamic bubble wand.