Programmable Origami

Alan Chamberlain, one of our PU&P Augmented Reading participants, posted a link to the bookleteer Facebook page about a programmable surface that has been created by researchers at MIT and Harvard. The composite material which looks pretty much like a piece of paper can fold itself into a number of predetermined shapes (in this case a boat, a plane and a tent) when an electric current is passed through it. The ‘paper’ contains a number of foil actuators to make it fold and tiny electromagnets to ensure it stays folded.

Researchers believe that one application might be to create containers that can change their size to adjust to the amount of liquid being poured into to them. Another might be to make StoryCubes that can expand and shrink depending on how much is written on them or how many people are collaborating. But they probably haven’t thought of that specific use yet..

Read more about it on where you can also see a video of it in folding action.. (Thanks Alan!)


Evil Mad Scientists: Paper Circuits

In my search for augmented cubes I came across these LED-lit origami cube by the Evil Mad Scientists. They are made from a single sheet of paper folded to make a cube with an LED and battery inside. The components are your basic LED Throwie however the way the cube folds calls for what the scientists call ‘3-D circuitry’.

For this, the scientists mark the circuit on the paper with a pencil then attach aluminium foil to either freezer paper (Do we even have this in the UK?) or a laser-printed image of the circuit. Once you’ve attached the foil to the paper using the heat of an iron, you fold the cube, insert the LED and battery and Bob’s your uncle!

The cut-out aluminium foil and the laser-printed image of the circuit

I have to admit I haven’t had a chance to try this out, and I’m certain that it’s a more challenging process than the very detailed instructions suggest, but I love the idea of combining this with the bookleteer eBooks and Story Cubes. I can imagine an eBook where the pages consist of circuit diagrams that the reader prints out and completes by ironing on aluminium foil. Of course, that would probably mean the reader putting as much work into making the book as the author..

Attaching the foil to the image of the circuit


Guilherme Martins: Printable Paper Arduino

Guilherme Martins has made a printable paper version of the Arduino board. This amazing project allows you to download the PDF file, print out the top and bottom layout, glue them to whatever support you like and start adding components. The PDF files, a list of the necessary electronic components and instructions are all available at Guilherme’s site here..

Perhaps it might be asking a little too much of your readers to ask them to build an Arduino board before they can read your book but I find the concept of printed and shareable electronics fascinating. Arduino boards are powerful pieces of electronics capable of a great variety of control tasks, but what if you printed simpler circuits onto paper for people to download and connect up. I imagine some of the circuitry that controls the Electronic Popables might be suitable for this kind of project.

Of course, if you also have a printer that’s able to print in conductive ink then you would save yourself a lot of time..


Miguel Mora: Flat Futures

In my quest for innovative cubes I came across the disposable Paper Alarm Clock by Miguel Mora a graduate from the Design Interactions course at the Royal College of Art. This project is one of a series by Miguel called Flat Futures which investigates the future of paper in the electronic age. Miguel describes the question behind Flat Futures in this way:

“We live in a ‘paper’ culture. Our everyday life is linked to paper objects, but we have always been led towards a paperless future. What if we could ‘enhance’ paper instead of getting rid of it?”

Miguel sees a future in which electronics – processors, batteries and displays – are printed onto flat and flexible surfaces rather than contained inside them and asks how will this change our relationship to these objects.

In the Paper Alarm Clock project Miguel explores these questions by creating an alarm clock out of a sheet of paper that would be screwed up to stop it ringing. The paper could then be straightened out and the alarm clock is ready for the next day.

Considering Flat Futures in relation to the networked system and shareable objects of bookleteer makes these questions even more complex, interesting and relevant. Currently bookleteer allows electronic files to be shared between people who can then print out those files and transform these printed sheets of paper into tangible objects – eBooks and Story Cubes. Flat Futures allows us to imagine a future in which these shareable tangible objects contain electronic components, in which you might email an alarm clock and download a table lamp.


Electronic Popables

A little while ago I wrote about the integration of electronics and books and speculated about the different kinds of reading experiences this might create. Now I find Electronic Popables by Jie Qi which electronically augments a pop-up book and creates a beautiful series of scenes where sliding, pressing and flipping pieces of paper causes underwater sea creatures to glow, the buildings of New York City to light up and stars in the night sky to twinkle.

Jie Qi created the book with Leah Buechley and Tschen Chew during a summer working in the High-Low Tech group at MIT Media Lab. The High-Low Tech group aims to engage people in creating their own technologies through situating computation in new and unusual contexts integrating high and low technological processes, materials and cultures.

Electronic Popables integrates traditional pop-up mechanisms with thin, flexible, paper-based electronics including capacitive sensors, bend sensors and pressure sensors, and the result looks like a familiar pop-up book but with added electronic effects.

Watch a video of Electronic Popables on YouTube here..


For the lazy reader

Feeling too tired to turn the pages of your book? You need les ├ęditions volumique…

The making of les ├ęditions volumique, Bertrand Duplat and Etienne Mineur

Created by Bertrand Duplat and Etienne Mineur les ├ęditions volumique is a physical book with computer-controlled self-turning pages. Watch the video here..

At first glance I thought this seemed a very different digital / physical hybrid to the ebooks and storycubes, however, why shouldn’t the little books be augmented with electronics and programming? The potential is great. Imagine stories with sound effects, guide books that know which direction you’re facing or self-lighting books for reading in the dark. Suddenly the content is brought to life, as the book becomes aware of its surroundings and responds to them expanding the experience of reading beyond the page.