The goal of this project is to provide an avenue for people, suffering after a break up, to resist the urge to check up on and stalk their ex-partner on social media. We built on this concept by prototyping an interpretation of a picture frame: magnetic particles would grow into a sculpture over a picture of the broken couple, but if the person looked at their ex on social media, then the particles would fall and reveal the original image. In this way, we essentially created a mental health barometer, a status bar that would keep the person accountable for moving forward with their progress in recovering from the break up. This prototype was explored further in context via a critical design video, where we detailed the process of a person receiving the present as a gift from a friend, slowly getting over the breakup, and moving on with their life.
This prototype consists of two main halves: 1) the picture frame and magnetic particle holder 2) the single axis screw assembly that moved magnets up and down along the y axis. The two halves were separated by two pieces of acrylic, through which the magnets actuated the iron particles to move up and down accordingly.
In our initial research, we knew we wanted to focus on helping people move on from break ups, which led us to discover the "Love Hurts" kit by Melanie Chernock. The kit is a humorous take on some of the rituals of getting over a breakup and includes a range of items from vodka to tissues to chocolate.
This kit helped us brainstorm to focus more on the suppression of urges to think about your ex, as the "Love Hurts" kit was more focused on enabling the user in guilty pleasures such as binging on chocolate or alcohol. When brainstorming about how to visualize this suppression, we started to think about organic motions and came across the movement of iron fillings as actuated by magnets.
Our process involved initially experimenting with the form that we wanted the magnetic particles to take. Initially, we were exploring the idea of having the magnetic particles enclosed in an hour glass shape or jar, creating an enclosed motion system. However, we became especially intrigued by the visual of the magnetic particles growing vertically along a wall and then dramatically falling, as that was a good physical representation of the idea of the quick regression that occurred when the person looked up their ex on social media again.
Once we determined that we wanted the magnetic particles to grow vertically, we started to construct the mechanism to move the magnets upwards. After some early experiments with a servo, we realized to attain the range of motion that we wanted from the magnets we needed to use a DC motor to turn a lead screw. The magnets were attached to a nut that would turn up and down on the lead screw. The prototyping of this mechanism ended up being more challenging than we anticipated. This was partially because of the fact that the motor and lead screw connection had a tendency to break with the glue cement we had used initially, as well as the fact that the magnets would be attracted to the DC motor (which we had to dampen with several pieces of felt).
Ultimately, after we got the mechanism working, we were able to construct the picture frame and iron fillings holder. This process took some experimentation to get the height of the fillings correct, as we wanted the magnets to just start catching the iron fillings (in order to be able to properly pull the fillings up later).
The main question and open challenge that this prototype leaves open is the lifecycle of the picture frame itself. As we were developing the critical design video, we realized that for a while after a break up, a person would realistically still keep a picture of them with their ex-partner. However, eventually, when the person has moved on, they would realistically no longer have that picture displayed anymore. In that case, would this picture frame be kept away - in an attic somewhere to be forgotten? Or, just as how our user was given this picture frame in our design video, would our user give away this picture frame to another friend to aid them in their breakup?
Additionally, there is also an open question of how to push the form of the iron particle sculpture. While we explored a single mass of magnetic particles that was meant to occlude the picture frame, we could potentially explore the interaction between two magnets, where one might pull away from the other, or even more complex interactions with arrays of magnets.
With more time, we would have liked to have the DC motor being controlled via an Arduino to create a more "breathing" iron filling sculpture. Perhaps play with variations of size of the frame and images that can be created (instead of just a circle).
Also, perhaps the motion of falling up and down can leave traces on the image to show that you've had it fallen down a certain amount of time.
This project definitely was weird, but we felt like it was a novel idea that we both wanted to explore a bit. We initially had the idea of making someone from a picture, but this concept was an extension of that.
As a team, we both worked really well together.
We would like to thank Gavin Yuen and Simone Hugh Sam for acting in our critical design video. We would also like to thank Prof. Daragh Byrne and Wei-Wei Chi for their advice and feedback along the process. Finally, we would like to thank Ghalya Al Sanea for her work on this project.
A project that focuses on resisting the urges to secretly follow ex-partners on social media