Create an interactive water fountain that reacts to the approach of someone drinking at the fountain, specifically by "flooding" the drinker with water.

Created: October 20th, 2016

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Write about the big ideas behind your project? What are the goals? Why did you make it? What are your motivations?

The intent of the project is to create an installation based around two of the states of water.  The installation itself will be a clear plastic tank of water connected to a humidifier such that the tank supplies the water to the humidifier and pumps water vapor back into the tank in a closed system.  To add a level of interactivity, LEDs will be below the tank to shine colored lights through the water and steam, the colors controlled by sounds nearby picked up by a microphone.  And to maintain stability of the installation, the tank will be supported by plastic legs.

Due to the nature of this installation, the potential location for it must be anywhere with access to electrical power, yet also in a location with objects not afraid of water damage, although the latter may be averted with either location of installation or better construction of the installation.  To make the project more compact and slightly simpler, the humidifier would be cut down t accommodate the plastic and lights, and again, four plastic legs will maintain the stability of the tank.  The microphone could either be directly on the installation or located somewhere nearby to pick up the ambient noise of Hunt.  The most optimal location, assuming that the construction of the case is enough to mostly guarantee the safety and containment of the liquids, would be in a corner somewhere in the carpeted area in Hunt, such that there would be enough ambient noise for the microphone to pick up, for example near the sofas opposite the circulation desk.


After considering the many drawbacks to this as a potential project, we altered our idea to create an experience with the drinking of water from a water fountain.  The usage of a water fountain drastically cuts down on the potential for spillage and containment and increases the potential of interaction with the installation as a whole.

For the experience, we settled on projecting what amounts to flooding the user of the water fountain with water to enhance on the experience of drinking water from the water fountain.  And in order to get the most interaction possible, we placed the project at the first floor water fountain.



Include references and discussion of artists, artworks, movements or aesthetic frameworks/techniques/approaches that inspired your outcome, process or approach. What has informed your outcome? How does your outcome relate to other artists and their work? What ideas, styles, or themes did you draw on any why? You must cite at least 3 critical texts, theories or works.

Our main source of inspiration came from the Drink Up Fountain, which encouraged people to drink from the fountain, and upon completion of the circuit via the water, would produce messages of hilarity or encouragement back to the user.  Although our setup is not as involved due to limitations with the alterations of the fountain, we approached the project in a similar fashion such that interaction with the fountain would "complete the circuit" within the sensor and cause the digital water to rise.

A more local source of inspiration came from the Pittsburgh Water Cube, in which free water is provided to people through a fountain or a bottle refill location, with the intent to spread the message of reducing plastic waste generated by water bottles.  We were inspired by the potential to create a similar message through the refill station water fountain, and although the physical implementation was included without our direct involvement, the projection could potentially advertise the same message of responsible rehydration.

For the bubble effect, we were inspired by the marketing of sodas in print and digital media.  Specifically we were inspired by CocaCola's marketing of Coke Zero through their interactive campaign, including advertisement installations which worked in similar fashion to ours.  However, it was the effects in the interactive pieces which inspired the bubbles, which we thought would enhance the feeling one gets from drinking water from the fountain.



Describe how you translated your concept into the outcome. How did you approach the exercise? What were the design choices? What challenges were encountered and how did you resolve them? What ideas did you generate and how did you refine or reject them? What approaches did you reject?

For our revised project, we first started with a program with a counter to track the amount of water drunk.  However, after reviewing it with some of the professors, the idea was changed to have "water" flood over the heads of those drinking from one of the fountains.  We limited it to only one of the fountains for simplicity and lack of materials, to be noted later.

We first decided on a design.  Via a sensor of some kind, the visual would activate when someone was using the water fountain.  Initially we decided to use a pressure sensor on the button to activate the water fountain, with a projector and laptop on top of the wooden shelves used for advertisement via flyers.  Also, we planned to have two sensors to cover both water fountains and create a kind of water race between the two fountains.

However, on the day of assembly, we had to scale down a few aspects of the project.  First, we had issue finding a pressure sensor, which then turned into a temperature sensor, and then into a laser+light sensor combo, and finally to a single photosensor.  The sensor would still operate like before, though an arduino, but it would be using the blocking of light by someone standing in front of the fountain to activate the animation, which actually allowed it to expand to people refilling water bottles as well as drinkers.  We reduced the whole thing to a single water fountain, although the second one still was in the area of projection.

The next problem was with cables and setup.  Unfortunately, the HDMI cable for the projector and the USB cable for the arduino unit were both not long enough to be placed across from the fountain to the projector, and definitely not long enough to hang from the ceiling.  However, luckily someone lent to us a long USB extension cord, and so we were able to send the input from the arduino to the computer across the ceiling, keeping the laptop and projector together.

The smaller problem after that was that the colors of the projection were affected by the yellow paint of the wall, which was simply solved through experimenting with the colors of the projection to get a nice few blues on the wall.

Finally, we just needed to add a few more touches to the projection and to assemble the whole setup, which was not terribly complicated once we had the right materials.  We had a member who was skilled with the arduino set up the sensor, while another skilled in unity set up our interactive animation.  We added the words Drink Me! in order to entice people to the fountain, and added a small animation to it to make it noticeable, which then eventually became the name for our project.  Effects were added in, as well as our names and class, and after applying a lot of tape to the USB extension cord to the ceiling, a lot of tape to the arduino to avoid short circuits and to keep it sturdy, stacking handouts in order to angle the projector down (it naturally sent projections to a higher angle, so we had to adjust for that issue), and applying black boxes to the projection to cut down on the blinding light possibly seen from the exit from the stairwell and an office, our setup was complete and working.



Describe the outcome. What did you create, how, etc.? How did you compose your image? What styles, methods or techniques did you use? What tools and technologies were involved?

The system we set up consisted of several components. 

Sensor: We soldered a photo sensor to a board in a circuit and hooked the sensor up to an Arduino. When the sensor detected a change in light, the Arduino sent a signal across across a USB cable to a computer interface system. The sensor was attached to the bottom of the water fountain, with the sensor facing out, near the button to start the water flowing in the water fountain. 

Interface: Our interface system was produced on the Unity Game Engine. It receives signals from the Arduino, and animates a water rising/falling animation according to the signal. If the signal activated, the water would rise to the top of the screen, and if the signal deactivated, the water would slowly fall to the bottom of the screen. The animation accounted for the projector location, and blocked off the area where the water fountain was situated (for user comfortability) as well as the locations of the projectors that extended off the water fountain area. It broadcasted the name: "Drink me!" to invite people to interact and explore the installation. 

This computer was attached via HDMI cord to a projector...

Projector: the projector was situated on a podium facing the water fountain about 10 feet away, facing the water fountain. The projector was propped up by books and notebooks. Since the system was situated, with the projector across a busy walkway, the wires connecting the sensor and the computer were run up the wall and taped/rigged across the ceiling of the walkway, to avoid mishaps with the cords. 



Critically evaluate the success of your own work. What does your inner critic say about this work? Did you match intent and outcome effectively? (note: use the framing questions to guide your response!)

We felt that our outcome was fairly successful, although there was room for improvement. With the limited resources at our disposal, we managed to get a really fun interactable installation at the entrance to Hunt Library, the results which led to a lot of interaction from those needing a quick drink or refill. The varying levels of reaction to the piece definitely is a positive plus, as most people reacted to it in a positive manner, drinking or refilling and then noticing the moving waves, maybe experimenting with the sensor. A few actually interacted with the sensor directly, which was an added bonus. Unfortunately, there was a level of confusion, at first with stickies to direct users, and later just a few more with concerns over the electrical component's natures.  Still, enough people interacted with it to make it a success in getting people to play with our installation, although a big portion was more or less coerced through forced interaction whenever someone used the fountain.  And although the project does seem simplistic, the work put in and the resulting rate of interaction made it a success as an interactive installation.



Briefly outline what you took away from this project. What did you learn? What would you do differently?

From this project, we learned a few valuable lessons.  First, with anything regards to wiring, we should not have underestimated the length of wires needed in order to create a setup which would not interfere with those coming into Hunt.  Second, with the projection, with more materials we could have been able to add the two person component and added more stats or text to enhance the experience.  Third, with more time and more resources, we could be able to design a way to make the interaction with the fountain less confusing to those passing by, although that issue is more of a hypothetical, as alteration of the water fountain itself would probably be necessary to fully drive away the concern people may have with random electrical equipment, such as with the Drink Up Fountain, and restrictions on resources, time and feasibility would hinder that for this iteration of the project.  Finally, and tying in with the previous source of improvement, it would be optimal to move from a projection to a screen or a large series of LEDs, as the projector could be easily moved by bumping, could be easily damaged by the same bumping, and the setup with the angling of the projector also was not optimal for the projector's safety.  Therefore, a more integrated display would be best (as it would also cut down on the wires and possibly the confusion issues), but again, due to time and material restrictions, such a project was not feasible for this assignment.


How People Reacted:

There were various levels of interaction with the piece.  The two biggest reactions are to either drink or refill from the fountain and block the sensor to activate the projection, or to avoid the sensor, either by standing at the main fountain at a different angle or distance, or to just use the second fountain.  There were a couple of cases where people would actively experiment with the sensor, placing their hands over it to observe how the projection would react.  On the converse side, there was a person who in confusion pressed on the sensor itself, and surprised, used the other water fountain instead.

Before, we had a sticky note near the sensor telling people to not touch the electronics, but it was interpreted by others to mean to not touch the fountain.  We replaced it with a sticky saying "stand in front of me", but that also created a level of suspicion from the viewers.  Finally, after removal of the sticky entirely, we had the most interaction with the fountain.

Focusing on the process of interaction, for those who drank directly from the water fountain, the usual progression was that they would notice the effects, drink, notice the result of the sensor, and then test the sensor.

The Arduino setup (below)
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The Arduino and Sensor
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The fountain setup (wire along ceiling)
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Computer and Projector Setup
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The Entire Setup
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62-150 Intro to Media Synthesis and Analysis

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New creative industries are empowering new modes of collaborative consumption, creation and reuse of media. This often relies on successful collaborations between cross-trained artists, designers a...more


Create an interactive water fountain that reacts to the approach of someone drinking at the fountain, specifically by "flooding" the drinker with water.