Creating a lock to augment the act of remembering past love on bridges in Pittsburgh, and potentially even worldwide

Created: April 11th, 2017


Conceptual Design

Inspired by the locks already on the bridge and its connection/significance to other sites around the world (ex. Paris), we decided to create a device that would enhance the experience of someone walking along such a bridge and help to really involve them in the memories that were once there and have now been marked. We wanted to create something that would envelop pedestrians and help feel as if they were themselves in the scenes of the love of the couples who originally tied the locks. To augment this feeling and help people remember the love that has now been symbolized right in front of them, we created Love Locks that would provide an auditory experience for people walking the bridge to hear voices of these past couples and feel a deeper connection with them, as well as a visual connection through the glowing of the locks at night to almost light up the night with their love. 




We took deep inspiration from the significance of these locks around the world and how much they are almost a universal symbol. We also took inspiration from the Fenestra project we read about in class, which was a new form of remembrance that took inspiration from Japanese memorials, to implement the idea of movement triggering a memorabilia to be displayed. We were also inspired/looked at PanAnthem, an interactive sound installation where hundreds of national anthems are poised to play upon the approach of the viewer, creating a barrage of sound similar to the barrage of voices from different locks once one is activated.



We went through many iterations in our design. Originally, we envisioned a lock that was simply motion sensitive and would play the recorded sounds when someone passed, so the entire bridge would play then if one person walked the entire span. We refined the idea to be more sensory sensitive by limiting the experience to an anniversary, such as the day, month, or year. We then took this a step further by deciding to create an interconnected web/network that were linked by year and activated by touch and motion of those in the same year. We also took feedback into how the locks responds to time with the “breakup” feature of the lock unlocking if the couple has broken up so the symbol of the bad relationship is no longer there and sharing of their past special moment is stopped.


Design Aspects of the lock

Here we analyze the electrical components of the lock and see the functionalities that were trying to be achieved.


Here is a view of the entire lock with its equipment functioning. Speak on the outside, electronics on the inside and Arduino in the back powering the high power electronics inside


This picture shows the inner workings on the lock. Inside you can see the Particle Photon used to communicated between the lock and the internet so that information of its status and commands can be relayed between one another. 

Other inner components include a solenoid, LEDs and a Recording/Playing sound board. Solenoid is for the unlocking mechanism that we intended on disconnecting the lock after a phone text was sent to it. The LEDs are meant for illuminating the clear container at night. These lights would defuse throughout the entire piece. Finally, the sound board was meant for recording 10 second memory that would then outputting it to a speaker for everyone to hear. 


This is a view of the case design interactions we went through. Notice how our first design was done in a solid green design. We want some material with more light permeable material so we went with clear PLA. If you notice these designs also have sharp hinges that are not smooth. For our unlocking functionality we smoothed that out and can be seen in all of the other pictures the smooth design.


This picture is an example of the LEDs illuminating the clear box when it gets dark. This would draw users attention to the lock and make sure they can interact with it.


In this image it is shown how the unlock feature on the lock functions. It is a hinge technique where the solenoid lowers itself to allow the hinge to move. Since the hinge is well out of the way from the center of mass the locks own weight would cause the hinge to slip off and the lock would remove itself from the installation. 


This is the back portion of the lock. Due to powering issues we couldn't contain everything inside the box so we had to place the Arduino in the back. There are small sections of solder-less breadboards that would just power the systems inside or a transistor for powering certain high current electronics like the solenoid. An interesting technique for keeping the front appearance cleaner is drilling holes in the back of the lock container and feeding the wires through those holes to the Arduino.


Here is an example of what can be recorded by the lock and how it projects the recording from the speaker. The people walking by would be able to hear the lock message but only on certain occasions. 


Web page 

we decided to create a web page to showcase our installation as this was an easy way to visualise what it would be like without actually setting it up on the site. This was generated using HTML and Javascript to previous assumption that it only could be made in Processing. 

 The web page receives incoming data from the photon in the lock when the button has been pushed. This data then triggers the audio for that specific lock which in turn triggers other audios with the similar subjects (e.g. date/time or origin of couple) When the audio plays from a specific lock that lock will light up to indicate it is the one being played. This can create a pattern of locks that are weaved together in a wider system of love. 

This website will be able to be used by all users of the bridge and would give more context into the bridge itself. 

Future of webpage

An interesting aspect to add to the web page would be a feature that the couples can log onto and edit information about their lock. They could choose to disclose more information about themselves so that their lock could be grouped in a category more easily. For example there may be a feature prompting the couple to add in the date the put the lock up, where they are from and how long they have been together? 

webpage of locks
Screen shot 2017 04 11 at 6.10.33 pm.thumb

  <meta charset="UTF-8">
  <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="style.css">
  <!-- uncomment lines below to include extra p5 libraries -->
  <!--<script language="javascript" src="libraries/p5.dom.js"></script>-->
  <!--<script language="javascript" src="libraries/p5.sound.js"></script>-->
  <!-- this line removes any default padding and style. you might only need one of these values set. -->
  <style> body {padding: 0; margin: 0;} </style>
  <script src=""></script>
   <!-- Latest compiled and minified CSS -->



	<div id="particle-login" />

    <P>Event name:<input type="text" name="eventNameBox" id="evText" value="rme2017-lovelock-triggered">
    <button id="connectbutton" onclick="start()">Connect</button>
<div class="bl">
<img src="lockslonger.gif"> </img>

    <audio controls id="voices">
      <source src="voices_mixdown.mp3" type="audio/mpeg">
      Your browser does not support the audio element.

    <audio controls id="waterfall" preload class="songs">
      <source src="waterfall.mp3" type="audio/mpeg">
      Your browser does not support the audio element.

    <audio controls id="thunderstorm" preload class="songs">
      <source src="thunderstorm.m4a" type="audio/mpeg">
      Your browser does not support the audio element.

    <pre><code id="datalog"></code></pre>

    <script type="text/javascript">

    // Go to Particle Build

    // Access Settings

    // And add your access token here

    //cut from here

    var accessToken = "362761d3b8d4980d024c05ace52781d454295a95";

    function start(objButton) {
        document.getElementById("connectbutton").innerHTML = "Running";
        var eventName = document.getElementById('evText').value;
		var requestURL = "" + accessToken;

        var eventSource = new EventSource(requestURL);

        eventSource.addEventListener('open', function(e) {
            console.log("Opened!"); },false);

        eventSource.addEventListener('error', function(e) {
            console.log("Errored!"); },false);

        eventSource.addEventListener(eventName, function(e) {
            var eventData = JSON.parse(;

            var data = eventData['data'];

            datalog.prepend( data + "\n" );

            if( data == "Info" ){
              crickets.loop = false;
            }else if( data == "plate" ){
            }else if( data == "fork" ){

        }, false);

//to here

    function stopAudio(){
      //pause playing

      //set play time to 0


Click to Expand

Future Improvements

This project had basic functionality but in the future we would want more improvements. The unlock design had the functioning components but required more fine tuning in order to release the lock from its place in a smooth manner.

Powering the system was a challenge on its own. Trying to fit the electronics in such a small container was difficult due to the space left only for small batteries. We would need to create a slightly larger box to hold these components or go with a different powering solution like outlet power or solar power. For costs and effort sake powering through an outlet would be the optimal choice. 

In the future we would also have to think more about connectivity. Right now we used a particle photon but this device only works with WiFi. If we wanted an outside installation we would have to use a particle electron. These electronics function the same way except that the electron has its own 3G service to connect to the cloud servers. This would be vital in the IoT section of out project. There is a monthly cost but rather low and provided by a legitimate cellular provider. 

If this were going to be installed outside we would have to really incorporate techniques for keeping the lock functioning always. Weather is especially a problem in Pittsburgh so we would have to make this equipment waterproof. This technique of 3D printing would allow too much water to filter through overtime. A solution to this would be to use a different type of 3D printer, SLS, that create water resistance seals on their prints. Another solution would be to spray the outside of the container with water resistance chemicals. This would create an outer shell that would not allow water to flow or permeate. With this design there are instances where there will be holes for the wiring or signaling. For the signalling issue an antennae extension could be installed that would not require a hole but a opening so that the antennae could be attached =outside for a better signal. For the wiring there would need  to be some sort or glue or gasket material covering up those connections to insure nothing seeps inside. 


Open Questions and Challenges

A big question that this question raises is what level of interaction is right for people to truly help remember events such as love, and to help them feel a part of other’s memories. Another question/challenge we had were the exact real-world implications/logistics of the project, such as brought up during the review: are they dispensed and bought, or rather already placed and ready to receive input? This simply raises a thought to keep in mind with the final project on how flushed out/what degree of resolution projects have. Another question/thought raised by the discussion during the crit feeds off the idea of this being a built system, and potentially playing with the idea of such a system being implemented in sites around the world and potentially being interconnected, so the network of the locks on one bridge envisioned currently is even more connected on a larger scale. This, however, could bring a huge set of issues and challenges with it, but the project (we feel) can be a good platform for actual developments to be made in real life if chosen. 



Looking back on the project, we are all happy with what we turned out conceptually/idea-wise. We do feel though that the resolution of a physical artifact/prototype was not as resolved as we wanted it to be. This project did help us to think deeper into real implications and logistics of the things that we imagine/think of, which is important for moving forward. Potentially, it would have been interesting if we had a working prototype or two and had a chance to actually install them on the bridge to see how interactions or enhances or lessened, and then to take those findings to further polish the design. We also feel that the interactivity virtually needs more thinking out, and simply think time would have helped with that.

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49-806 Responsive Mobile Environments

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This 15-week course will introduce students to responsive mobile environments and encourages them to explores speculative terrains that intersect art, technology and design and space.


Creating a lock to augment the act of remembering past love on bridges in Pittsburgh, and potentially even worldwide