TACTILE - Proposal

Ethan Miller / Kristin O'Friel / Mike Weisert


Data collected will be the product of "loving" purposeful interaction by the user. Pressure readings will be taken from four large 'shapely' pink plush sections in the middle portion of the neuron. We will also be placing several "sqeeze me" sensors in this area of the neuron. Data will flow down the neuron to floor motors and out to visual and sound.


Pressure and contact data will be taken in the central portion of the form when the viewer hugs the neuron. It is also a good possibility that motors activated from visual and audio input will trigger our sensors. This may result in a feedback loop of a large, vibrating, plus neuron.

The data from our sensors will flow down the form, activate motors and lights to give user feedback, and then be passed in the form of a dictionary.


Data received from the auditory and visual group will begin in the head of the neuron. It will be visualized in both sound from the boxes of plush toys, as well as light up parts. This data will travel down the form and activate other motors and feedback devices to finally passed on with user data.

TACTILE - Progress

Apr. 14 2005


We decided to use readily available commercial products with embedded sensors and motors as our source material. We visited both Target and Toys-r-Us and picked up a plush learning puppy with sensors, a mechanical dancing Ernie in a chicken suit, and a plastic ball with both buttons and a motor that rolls around. We then dissected the toys for components. We also picked up a few yards of a plush fabric in flesh tones.


We came up with a sketch of how we envisioned the finished giant plush neuron. We then consulted with Sara Lowe for advice on how to constuct it.

We decided to use a large PVC pipe for the core of the axon. The head of the neuron will also have a PVC pipe core, that fits over the axon core for easy disassemply and transportation. We'll use a thick gague wire and chicken-wire to form the head of the cell. We'll then cover the construction with fabric and stuffing to complete it. It will also use airplane wire to suspend the whole thing from the ceiling.

TACTILE - The Giant Plush Neuron

Ethan Miller / Kristin O'Friel / Mike Weisert

In pursuit of an unconventional contextually acute interface, the tactile component consists of a nine-foot huggable plush neuron. For convenience in portability the neuron is constructed in three segments, the soma and receiving dendrites (top-section), axon (mid-section), and terminal dendrites (base-section).

The armature for the top and base is constructed using a light-gauge chicken wire, while the axon core consists of PV C piping. Each of the regions are wrapped in cotton batting, the axon excessively so, to achieve the desirable cushioned interface. A soft peach fabric is used over the soma/receiving dendrites and terminal dendrite base, and a lightly blushed tone for the myelin sheath and nucleus. Shout-out to Sarah Lowe and her mad sewing skills so altruistically contributing to the assemblage of the soma and sheath covers. Once in the exhibition space, the three segments are unified, the top and base sections laced to the PVC midsection using a heavy-gauge wire. The piece is vertically hung from the ceiling using airline cable secured to the PVC infrastructure.

Sheathed below the soft, lustrous surface of the 'axon' are five sensors detecting user contact. Strategically distributed, the piece must be fully embraced to activate all five of these sensors simultaneously. The degree of user contact is detected and transmitted to one of two Basic Stamp microcontrollers concealed in the hollowed armature of the soma. This information is then transmitted to the main python script and distributed to the other two groups. The second Basic Stamp is supplied with the audial and visual output. Input data received from the audial group is expressed through two modified DC motors. High amplitudes activate the vibration of the motor located in the neuron's 'nucleus', while high frequencies prompt the locomotion of the rolling motor located at the base of the 'axon'. Visual data received is analyzed and parsed, interpreting the visual field in three vertical divisions, informing the lighting of corresponding LEDs in the 'receiving dendrites'.

Source Files

Main python script

Basic code to read buttons, and send data to the python script

Basic code to receive signals from python, and activate lights and motors