Zen Garden

This week the team explored drawing machines with Arduino. Rather than a more typical drawing medium, and inspired by the impermanence of drawings created on sand, the team chose to create an experience where users could etch designs onto sand held on a rotating platform which would be wiped clean once they left.

Machines like this often draw the same pattern over and over again, but the team turned that concept a little sideways by giving users control over what was being drawn. At the core of the machine is a linear potentiometer that moves a wooden pointer along the sand in a motion that mimics the user’s interaction with a slider.  

In creating Zen Garden, the team adopted a step-by-step approach starting with understanding the available materials and their knowledge and time limitations for the project. We discussed the potential inputs and outputs, as well as whether to use live data or a predetermined data set. In an effort to create an engaging and real time experience, we chose the former.

We proved the concept with pseudocode and low-fidelity prototyping. Through a quick simulation using salt, different types of pointer, and a rough platform prototype, we were able to better visualise interactions between these elements. Given that physical computing uses both software and hardware, the team tested both in turn as they were added to the machine to more easily debug.