Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Trade Secrets

Today's meeting really had something for everyone: laughter, tears (mine, on the inside, from frustration), confusion, listlessness, leadership, inspiration, and dry erase markers.

Our goal this quarter was to make something using Arduino technology. Things seemed to be moving along--we have the Arduinos, and we have this idea for wearable technology that would interface with the touchscreen Chris built. But with two weeks left and no deliverable in sight, we were all feeling a little overwhelmed.

With Beth's help, we redefined our problem. There was all this talk about computer languages versus computer programs, serial ports vs. serial proxies, Flash and Python and pygame and action scripts. And it was becoming increasingly apparent that no one had any answers. Normally, someone at least pretends to have the answers.

I couldn't make sense of anything, so with everyone's help, I drew a map of the problem as it stands now (see photo). My drawing uses an orange squiggle to indicate "translation" of data from one form to another.

On the left hand side of the photo, you can see the Infrared (IR) LEDs paired with an Arduino. The Arduino tells the LED what pattern to flash at. The pattern is associated with a particular user ID, so it conveys the presence and identity of the wearer. The IR data signal goes to an Infrared sensor, which is also paired with an Arduino. The sensor reads the IR data signal, and the Arduino interprets the data and sends it to the computer via a USB cable. A serial proxy in the computer gets the input from the Arduino, and translates the data into code that Flash can read. It's important to keep in mind that at every intersection, code is translating the data from one form to another. It's the type of code and writing the code that present much of our challenge.

Well, that and everything else.

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