Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finalizing everything + reflections

We finally have everything in our project done!

Ruth and I spent spent most of Saturday evening in the lab again, debugging the suit and filming the video (with the help of Ruth's AWESOME friend). The phidget's code had gotten messed up, so we still had to debug and clean that up, then various connectivity and data issues kept coming up (the accelerometer would often think it was horizontal when it wasn't, for example). We ended up getting it all to work for the video though.

Since Kat hadn't been able to make this work session, she offered to splice the video together and get our website up, so that should be done now, too.

Now that we're done I have time to reflect on what I've gotten out of doing this project. What I think I've learned the most is that hardware is quite annoying to work with, but also quite rewarding to figure out. Every step of the way SOMETHING wasn't working - whether it be the liquid level sensor that gives gibberish feedback, the wii nunchuck which gives output at a different rate, sensor wires that won't stay connected, Arduino boards that aren't getting enough power, or an LED light that had come ungrounded, something or another didn't want to function. However, that moment of figuring out why something isn't working is really rewarding. It means that all the energy you had put into figuring it out wasn't for nothing.

All of this came with the territory of working with data generated in the real world. Real-world data (in this sense) is pretty much unique to TUIs and comes with its own host of problems. It's not consistent and is subject to being manipulated by things like gravity and short-term movements. We had continuously be conscious of the fact that data was only meaningful if it was true for more than the split second that the sensor happened to collect data.

Lastly, I learned that I need to brush up on my coding skills. There were many times when I thought "I used to know how to do this - and now I can't remember!" It was really frustrating and a situation I don't really want to be in again. I hope to brush up on my coding over break.

As an ending thought, I think this project, (and this class in general), has inspired me to think about how I can bring computing into the real world. To me, this represents a shift in how I was thinking about the course at the beginning of the semester (when we started this project). When I was first introduced to this topic I thought about it in terms of bringing the real world into computing, or how the real world can enhance the experience of using the computer. While I think that this is important to keep in mind, I think it's fundamentally different from how I'm thinking about the subject now. Now I tend to think about how computers can be used to enhance the real-world. Computer are becoming increasingly powerful and subtle. The possibilities of what they can do are becoming less and less limited. I think it's far more inspiring to think about how these machines can fit into the rich and vibrant world we live in, than trying to fit our world into the traditional ideas about machinery.

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