My explorations this semester have led me through about a dozen books, forays into learning two new programming languages (C++ and Python) and numerous orders of Arduino components from Sparkfun and Adafruit.
My final prototype of the semester does not bring the so far disparate strands of my thinking together in any unified way, it's really just another small experiment.
Instead of trying to replicate some very simple (and obvious) tasks like manipulating color, I decided to try something a little more unexpected. I wanted to try letting a user feel a pattern, so I used a proximity sensor and engraved a grid pattern into wood. Where the user's fingers are on the grid, a correspondingly dense pattern fills an ellipse on screen using Paper.js.
The user can also rotate the grid with a dial (potentiometer) and 'save' the pattern by tapping the keyboard's space bar – or tapping again to continue editing.
The grid pattern in the video is a screen-capture – it's the actual realtime effect created by using the device as recorded.
I received some early feedback that the vertical lines in the engraving make it harder to feel the density of lines, which seems fair. I was keen to closely mimic the grid, but providing a sensation that makes sense beneath the finger is obviously a critical factor.
I'm interested in exploring more with tangible textures. Manipulating a grid is something of an obscure task, but it was a useful experiment in novel ways to control what's on screen in a thoroughly tactile – though perhaps not too precise – manner.