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Make something that makes people happy! First assignment.

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

In our first class we were all given a customized assignment based on our response to “…what’s our background and why are we taking Softness of Things”. I mentioned that I am really interested in the happiness of people; therefore my assignment was to ‘make something that makes people happy.’ As some of you can attest, it’s difficult making people happy. But I was up for the challenge…

First I was thinking of making a box. Inside this box will have small intermit items such as rocks, notes with messages, miniature picture frames, a mirror with a smiley face, etc… Seemed simple enough, but something was missing. I then asked myself the question “What is Happiness“. I can’t recall every ever asking myself this question before. I searched a few websites and came across ‘The Happiness show‘ website . It states first we must understand that the term “…happiness” refers to the emotion, mood, and state of happiness, however happiness researchers generally study the more enduring “state.”. I like this statement, which provoked more thought for me. Click on the previous link to read more about what they said.

Next I asked the question “What makes people happy”. Again I went to websites such as the ‘American Psychological Association (APA)‘ and ‘Health and Behaviour‘. Their clinical responses focused on ‘Self-esteem‘ and ‘Family and Friends‘ as some of the top components to happiness. Somehow I wanted to compare their clinical findings with my own research. I set out to build a web-page where family and friends/colleagues in my circle can respond top the question and see each other responses all in one page. The only components added to the question was their gender & for them to create a ‘Handle‘. This provided a safe environment for anyone to post what really makes them happy without feeling judged. I have to say I was quite surprised, yet pleased with the overwhelming responses in such short timeframe. In my analysis of the responses I found that ‘Family & Friends‘ was mentioned most. Other top responses were ‘Traveling - Freedom - Food and Music‘. Results are still trickling in. Check out and add your own response [ ]. Now armed with this information I had to come up with something that best compliments this. I was speaking to my friend and school colleague Scott Corrigan who suggested cupcakes. That was the eureka moment I was waiting for. I also decided to ad another layer to the cupcake idea and add individual messages to to each cupcake. I realize that even though a cupcake cannot replace family and friends and more adding personal messages, like fortune cookies - something we are familiar with, can also help to lighten and brighten ones day. Plus there was an natural connection with food and family. Liz Gallo in my class did point out that one of her favourite holidays was Thanksgiving - A time when family and food are synonymous. It was a done deal.

The next process was to actually make the cakes. It’s been a while since I’ve baked anything. But what I realize is that I receive enjoyment, or happiness if I must, when I cook for others. My happy time was also being met. Gathering ingredients for the cake was a little task at first. at least at 12 midnight. I also wanted to write the personalized messages on the bottom of each cupcake using ‘edible markers’ like the ‘FoodWriter‘ and ‘Foodoodler‘. I did not get the markers but added another color cupcake basket with the notes. The baking took a bit longer than I planned and was alot more work. Many steps to make this project alive.

Skipping ahead everyone seemed to be pleased with the concept and of-course, the cake. At the end it was a rewarding experience for me. I was very happy and happy to see others happy. Smiles to everyone.

Please comment to the blog, and also respond to the question ‘What Makes You happy‘.

Initial Project Ideas

Monday, September 10th, 2007

First I have to say designing (interesting) visuals and content for a 120 x 12 foot screen is a HUGE challenge. No pun…

Anyway, I have two ideas for the screen, definitely ambitious for my programing abilities.

The first IDEA involves a camera tracking system detecting a specific colour and it’s motion within a pre-determined range. On the screen will be several objects - [ cubes, balls ] with picture or video surfaces in the foreground with complementary visuals as the background.

The interaction, as the person moves the designated device (maybe a table tennis paddle with a lime green colour surface) they will move the objects on the screen, even pass [ throw ] it to another person on the other side of the screen who then catches it does what ever. There could be a coring system to feed the competitive soul. but it should be visually appealing and FUN! Maybe call it virtual Volleyball…

The idea is to get people to not only observe, but to play. Interact with each other thus encouraging further play. The time to display is short so immediate cause and effect is one way to go. Very ITP some would say and nothing new to us. But on a screen this large, tracking the movement of our hands can prove to foster interaction, a different way to use a screen this large.

Idea 2 is to have a a picture, let’s say the NYC Skyline, all distorted or blurred. But over a short time the image is rendered to a sharp, in-focus picture of the fore-mentioned Skyline. The render sequence is triggered by the noise level of the traffic on the West-side highway outside the IAC building. The noise level is translated into pixel focus sequences, which is randomly disbursed on the screen.


The code will have a randomness for where gets rendered in focus. There’s also a physical randomness by the cars over time. The noise variations help complete the Picture.

One can find a correlation between the physical movement in NYC and the completing of the image of this city overtime. The city is developing. A bit wordy I know but it’s getting late and it’s my blurred vision…

Note: Fellow classmates and I went one evening to the IAC building to have a sneak peak at this Massive video wall. And MASSIVE it was! Even from the street it was captivating if one took time to engage it’s presence. Like the drivers who momentarily stop at the light, or the NYSC members and the evening joggers and bikers on the path which lines the West-side Highway. Someone will always stop and look.