The design of Bicker

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My product has been fabricated using two main parts – a wooden plinth and a 3D printed component. The wooden plinth was originally from the art school, which gave me a constraint to build a product around. With this understanding of how a plinth would be the basis for my product, I began to think about what would sit on top and how.

I began to sketch ideas out and experiment with form factors. I really liked the idea of a form that actively encouraged listening and conversing with, so opted for one that looked not to dissimilar to a megaphone. I chose to have this 3D printed, to give an air of authenticity, but also as I was inspired by the “Our Friends Electric” videos created by Loraine and Martin in association with Mozilla.

I created the 3D printed component with a view to fit the electronics in. I had experimented with ideas such as nodding and head shaking previously, however decided there was a lot more information to be conveyed with NeoPixels. With these, I could depict emotion, visualise speech and even add visual representation to information, through pie charts and count-downs.

The NeoPixels sit in the base of the unit, shining through a translucent piece of acrylic plastic. By shining through, this gives a hint of emotion around what the machine is conveying in it’s speech. The wiring is pulled through the legs of the 3D printed component, and wired through the back of the top of the plinth. I wanted the wires to carry down through the bottom of the plinth, but unfortunately the NeoPixels didn’t like a long wire carrying the data signal from Arduino to pixel, so had to scrap that.

There is no voice interaction in the product, however the lights are designed to show specific emotion. For instance, in the video where the machine calls over the pedestrian, they excitedly spring to life to show that activity. Where the machine argues about the impact of the V&A in Dundee, the lights form a ring of only 25% of the possible amount, backing up the fact that around a quarter of Dundonians live in poverty.

I am quite proud of what I’ve achieved with this product – especially considering I had none of these components assembled before heading off to MozFest. I’d be interested to see how I would develop this product with more time – perhaps I would try to get that nodding effect into it somehow… Only time will tell if this is a product for future experiment!

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