Busking in Hyperspace: Creating a mask for self-o-nautics

ahhhh….what a gorgeous month!  I came back to mississippi in need of some trees, and squirrels and long spans of quiet contemplation and it has been that and more.  I am beginning to see and feel the oscillations of my process.  its no longer a surprise when I begin work on one thing but end up finishing something else.  I get it now.  all the talking to myself and the evolving sketches and the dream time design iteration…things feel consolidated.


For some reason, I always feel like apologizing for the dearth of posts I make now.  but trust me…its for the best.  I think about sharing my process in the moment but, especially as the winter creeps up, I now know better.  those that know me personally know that I am not short on words or ideas and can talk endlessly about them (especially in the winter), which was a reason I loved berlin.  it’s a city for such people.  but when I am swimming in idea mutations and variations on themes that have nothing to do with anything I am working on, it gets to be too much even for my more talkative friends.  BUT, it is necessary…I cant stop the process…I wouldn’t even try.  its too amazing.  swirls of ideas, history, cosmic forms, algorithms, all mutating amongst each other as if they are the same.  no limitation on possibility.  universes expanding and collapsing a thousand times a day.  but the problem is that I might need to invent a universe that will spawn a concept that doesn’t exist here then, as Sun Ra would say, “Transmolecularize” it into something that could exist here on this plane, but even that might be transitional so in the end it was just a thought experiment for the sake of creating a new sound or form.  if I shared all or even some of them, it would become a confusion of sketches never meant for expression outside of my own mind-modelling construct.  so now I wait until the process cools a bit and then share a concise overview.

case in point; upon arriving back in mississippi, I was all ready to investigate 3 things specifically;

  • conductive ABS plastic filament
  • the atmel328 microprocessor, effectively turning the system into arduinos rather than purchasing already made arduinos
  • the ESP8266 wifi tranciever


Picture 133

I ordered and received a roll of conductive ABS a few days before returning to the south.  while atNoisebridge Hackerspace in san francisco, I was “conducting” electrical conductivity tests to determine how best to incorporate this new material.  as a carbon-plastic composite, this material can conduct electricity weakly, but well enough to create simple touch and temperature sensors.  this was my focus.  some of the more unique properties of the material, like not letting it cool in the nozzle because the carbon will settle in the end and clog on next use, blowing up the hotend, did set me back a couple of times, but thus is experimentation.  I began to glean valuable data.  enough data to recognize that I could, with a bit more experimentation, use this material for touch sensors.  this would make the hand units so sexy!  the design is currently restricted by the size and shape of the sensors, switches and other components necessary to get basic functionality.  by printing most if not all of those components, the scope for design zooms off at warp speed!

so it was that I calibrated my reprap a bit more, just to ensure that the size tolerances were precise.  printing sensors into the design would be a multistep process until I adapt my reprap for multimaterial printing.  I would have to print the nylon part then the sensor/circuit parts seperately.  I had my sketches and my coffee and a time horizon of 3 solid uninterrupted weeks and on the first post calibration test print…the reprap stopped printing and nothing I did would get it to start back up………………………………….its like someone mushing a booger into a slice of pizza you have been standing in line and salivating for for hours except there was no one to punch in the face.  so after the usual “why do I do this to myself?/Whats wrong with my life?” episode, I ordered a new different board, but more on that in a bit.

so at this point I have a week…a WHOLE fucking week  to kill but lucky me, there is never a dull moment with this system so I reached for the electronic components I had just ordered and received;  the atmega328 microprocessor and the esp8266 wifi tranciever.  the arduino uno is based on the atmega328 and for those that don’t know, the arduino is not only a product in itself but an open source project as well.  the majority of the work inside the arduino is done with the atmega chip.  add a couple resistors and a 8 or 16mhz crystal for timing and you can build in full arduino functionality for about $5.  from there you can customize it for the exact functionaity you want and save money as well as design space since the chip is about the size of a 6 year olds pinky finger.

vlcsnap-00012I was able to get basic code onto it to do the well known blinky light test. but ran into issues getting standard firmata onto it.  this is the basis of my systems IO. so I shifted gears to the ESP8266, since I really wanted to be printing right now, and  didn’t have the desire to fiddle with error messages.vlcsnap-00013the ESP8266 is the superstar of 2014 maker-dom.  32bit processor, upgradable firmware, 20db broadcast strength (my current trancievers are 12db max) and did I mention  FIVE DOLLARS EACH!!  by contrast, my rn-xv’s are $35 each.  there are demos online of people getting 4km range out of these things!  and…AND each one can act as an accesspoint!!  what this means is that I will be getting rid of the wireless router as soon as I get this thing to do my bidding.  the entire network can then be worn on body and cost less than one of the trancivers I use today, with increased reception!  my experiments got me up to the point where the exo-voice connected with one of them as an access point.  I flashed the firmware and studied the datasheets but was distracted by the arrival of my new reprap brains arrival in the mail.

my reprap was acquired from the guy who invented the category-adriam bowyers-Emaker.  the board I received with the printer kit back in late 2011 was arduino variant designed specifically for 3d printing called the “melzi ardentissmo”vlcsnap-00011it was designed to be be an all in one, easy to replicate 3d printer board.  just wire in your motors and hotend and print.  and it has been a pretty nice board, but with one major flaw; it’s a single board, or what I like to call, a single point of failure.  if one thing dies, the board could be toast.  I say “could be” because numerous things have died over time.  the bed, the hotend, the extruder.  luckily I could reroute around blown circuits to other, unused pins, but with everything on a single specialized board, it meant that eventually youd have to buy another whole board, which I had already done a year earlier and they are not the cheapest option.

vlcsnap-00014so with this failure I decided to move over to what seems to be the closest thing to a standard platform that repraps have- the RAMPS board.  this is a shield that plugs onto an arduino mega.  I like this board a lot so far.  it is very modular and each part is very inexpensive.  chinese made arduino megas are around $15-20 and the RAMPS shield, with small replaceable motor shields, cost $17.  I paid $34 total for everything compared to $90 for the melzi.  luckily the same firmware I used for the melzi, Marlin, I could use on this board, so I loaded the firmware and did surprisingly minimal calibration.  probably because I did all the firmware calibration before the previous board blew up, but I digress because I’m back in the game.

vlcsnap-00015this board allows me new features and freedoms as well. there is an extra empty slot for another extruder, which I will need to integrate printed circuitry into the my next designs (yaaaaay!!).  I can use my heated bed again as well.  the power to it had fried a long time ago and I havent really needed it but  its nice to know I can use the headed bed if I really need it.  and finally, I can power it with anything from 12v to 35v.  I decided to continue using my existing 19v power brick but if neccessary, I could use almost any desktop computer power supply.  this flexibility is greatly appreciated.  and just to be sure, I added a new hotend heater cartridge and thermistor and have a backup just in case because I don’t want to deal with anymore unintended downtime for the forseeable future.

Picture 160while in memphis Eric swartz and I came upon a cicada, a large rare strange looking insect that only emerge from whereever the hell they come from, every 7 years and then , only for 7days before they die.  most of their life is spent in a sort of, as eric put it, “telepathic dream state” and to be honest, 7 years is a hell of a long time to be in any state so we figured that theirs is a multidimensional existence.  telepathic dream state for most of their lives, then blasting onto this plane in an explosion of flying, buzzing reproductive brilliance then onto the next plane 7 days later…..

Picture 151vlcsnap-00016

everyday I go outside and sit in the grass and go places.  I just let my mind journey whereever it chooses, until it gets too hot or the bugs realize that im stationary, at which point I sketch things.  one such thing was a new kind of mask.  in the last couple of years, more and more of my assumptions of what “should” be, are dissolved.  I realize that most of those forms are from my previous programming by way of mass media.  it was the reason for my helmet fixation all those years ago. helmetI felt that a cool head covering…a functional head covering must be a helmet of some sort because…just because.  I never really thought much about it til someone asked online, upon seeing my choice of headgear at the time, “ why are you wearing a helmet? are you planning on getting hit in the head?”  of course said commenter was trolling me but he/she had a point;  why was I repurposing military gear for my expression?  primarily, I think, because I didn’t have a self realized construct that could do the job any better.  “the job”.  what job?  functionally, the helmet I had allowed me to consolidate my various electronic components in a singular appartus-mic, headphones, goggles (because I like goggles), all in one form.

Picture 164on this particular day, sitting in the grass I resketched a concept I had investigated a number of different ways over the last year.  to revisit the form-fitted mohawk “arms” of my previous design but make them more integral to the design beyond just hanging goggles on the end of them.  the mohawk has acted as an anchor in most of my laterday designs. Picture 35it keeps my designs from shifting around on my head and has an easthetic I love.  but the previous designs always returned to being held to the head by straps on the sides of my head.  the previous mask design broke me of this habit.

vlcsnap-00017I found the previous mask to be functionally very good but aesthetically hideous.  it was a perpetual battle in my mind between function and aesthetic.  I kept getting pulled in one direction or the other. while in california, it gave me the chance to investigate my software more but the box-on-my-face thing offended my sense of symmetry and flow.  I  obviously didn’t freak out about it but it was  continual thing I would revisit when I dreamed.

from the dreams come sketches and on this day I imagined a form that left the sides of my face, head and neck open and placed  everything down the middle of my head.  because why not?

Picture 150Picture 152

what is interesting about the modelling process now is that the CAD work and printing work are the last 10% of the process.  the preceeding 90% consists of eyes closed visioning of, first, the world the design is most natural in, and then the design that expresses that place.  in that world there was no need for militaristic overtones or inelegant function for function sake. in that space, insect inspired design is very natural and mid-face mechanics are the norm.

Picture 154

as a side note, the two small feet in the very back , sit at a perfect angle directly on the mastoid bone at the back-base of the skull

in that world, the purpose was not for “performance”.  it was for self-o-nautics; investigating the self-“I”-verse.  the pads along the ridge of the head were primarily for electrical stimulation.  function expresses itself in the dimension of aesthetic as well as computer interfacing.  we, this mask and I,  went on many many adventures in many worlds, where I got to see how the design would respond to differing situations;Picture 146 I could see and feel when it would slip or bite or be too bulky-and ever so often I would emerge from this place to add or deduct a line or a curve to the sketch until it became an interconnected collection of pieces that could be realized with my tiny little single material reprap.

I must say, I am ALWAYS amazed when the designs materialize from this process looking and acting the way I designed them in mind-space.  when the sketch first appears on paper, I see it and think, “hmmmm…that is going to be way outside of my capabilities” but it never is.  it just takes FOREVER to imagine properly.  the design work is done with eyes closed, sometimes for months.  one tweak that I am especially happy with is the addition of 3 mm to the tip of the mouthpiece which allows me to bite the mouthpiece to hold it in place while I play.  this steadies the mask and the pitch control simultaneously.


the next phase is to integrate the atmega/esp8266 combo into it and refine that.  once that works there, it will be much easier to integrate into the hand units.  currently I mounted the arduino box from the previous design, into the chin while shortening the mouthpiece to make it flush with the front of the mask.Picture 156



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