Shy Lotus

Made by rkandala

The objective of this project was to explore how emotions can be communicated through expressive motions for inanimate objects to give them a personality.

Created: December 20th, 2015

Password: mti2015
const int numReadings = 10;

int readings[numReadings];      // the readings from the analog input
int index = 0;                  // the index of the current reading
int total = 0;                  // the running total
int average = 0;                // the average

int micPin = A0;
int micVal;
int micMin = 33;
int micMax = 500;

#include <Adafruit_NeoPixel.h> //include the neopixel library
#define PIXEL_PIN 6
#define NUMPIXELS 12
Adafruit_NeoPixel ring = Adafruit_NeoPixel(NUMPIXELS, PIXEL_PIN, NEO_GRB + NEO_KHZ800); //initialize neopixel object
uint32_t ringColor;

int yelr=255;int yelg=11;int yelb=78;
int pinkr=255;int pinkg=133;int pinkb=152;
int deepr=16;int deepg=91;int deepb=91;
int purpr=51;int purpg=37;int purpb=50;

//Servo Motor
#include <Servo.h>

Servo myServo;
int servoPin = 10;
int servoPos = 0;
int minPos = 0;
int maxPos = 60;

//State Logic
int micThres = 200;//800
boolean closed = false;
boolean servoOn = false;
float counter = 0;
float countdown = 500;

void setup() {
  // put your setup code here, to run once:
    //Initialize Servo

  //Initialize NeoPixel


void loop() {
  micVal = smoothing();
  Serial.print("Mic: ");
  delay(1);        // delay in between reads for stability

//Servo Motion
void updatePos() {
  servoPos = map(counter, 0, countdown, maxPos, minPos);
  servoPos = constrain(servoPos, minPos, maxPos);
  Serial.print("Pos: ");

//neoPixel Update
void updatePixels() {
  int r = 0;int g = 0;int b = 0;
  int minr = 0;int ming = 0;int minb = 0;
  int maxr = 0;int maxg = 0;int maxb = 0;
  r = map(micVal, micMin, micMax, minr, maxr);
  g = map(micVal, micMin, micMax, ming, maxg);
  b = map(micVal, micMin, micMax, minb, maxb);
  ringColor = ring.Color(r, g, b);
  for (int i = 0; i < NUMPIXELS; i++)
    ring.setPixelColor(i, ringColor);

void updateState(){
    if(micVal>micThres){closed = true;counter=countdown;}
    else{closed = false;counter=0;}
  else{servoOn = false;counter=0;}
//  Serial.print("close:");
//  Serial.print(closed);
//  Serial.print("; time:");
//  Serial.println(counter);
int smoothing() {
  // subtract the last reading:
  total = total - readings[index];
  // read from the sensor:
  readings[index] = analogRead(micPin);
  // add the reading to the total:
  total = total + readings[index];
  // advance to the next position in the array:
  index = index + 1;

  // if we're at the end of the array...
  if (index >= numReadings)
    // ...wrap around to the beginning:
    index = 0;

  // calculate the average:
  average = total / numReadings;
  // send it to the computer as ASCII digits
  return average;
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Gestures are considered one of the most primitive forms of communication amongst human beings. However, when you look at objects the way they communicate with us it is a bit more explicit (i.e. speech or text). With Shy Lotus, I wanted to explore the expressivity of motion and to see if objects can communicate to us through motions.

The interaction I wanted to design is that of a shy plant that is sensitive to loud environments. Essentially if it is too loud it would close its petals and change color to convey a mood of shyness. Only when the ambient environment has calmed down do the petals reopen and the flower changes color to convey a state of calmness.

The shy lotus has three major components: the petals, the center dome, and the pedestal.

- The petals are made out of rice paper and held together with a stem made out of laser cut acrylic.

- The center dome, which unfortunately was too small in my final build, is made out of a translucent resin such that the LEDs can be nested in it to create a glossy effect when they shine through.

- The pedestal is made out of laser cut plywood and houses the electronics controlling the mechanism.

The mechanism works using a pulley system. Strings are attached to the outside and inside of the petal stems. The outside strings are attached to a spring in the center, which creates tension for the petals to stay open. The inside strings are attached to a servo arm that creates downward tension on the petals, when the lotus is in a shy state. The servo motion is triggered with a sound sensor.

There were two things I learned from this project 1) choice of materials changes the experience 2) mechanisms are difficult to build. The rice paper made huge difference in the experience and I felt that the delicate nature of the paper reflected the delicateness of the flower. With regards to the mechanism, originally I had planned on using nitinol wires to actuate the petals rather than a pulley system. Unfortunately, the wires never arrived on time and choosing to create a pulley system was back up strategy. The mechanism doesn't work quite as well as I had planned (I wanted the motion to be gradual rather than sudden) and I could’ve spent more time refining how it moves.

If I had a few more weeks to revise this project I would use the nitinol wires and rice paper to make the petals look more delicate. I would also rebuild the stand use wood or other materials so that it feels like it fits in a home. Finally, I would try to play around with the motion of the petals a bit more (i.e. add more degrees of movement or change motion path) to see if I could create more expressive and aesthetic motions.   

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The objective of this project was to explore how emotions can be communicated through expressive motions for inanimate objects to give them a personality.