Riding on the bus can be a very disorienting and uncomfortable experience. We designed the Visual Lullaby to make your bus experience more comfortable, interactive, and help you to know where you are. The Visual Lullaby is a pillow that lights up and changes colors, plays stories from various places on the number one bus route, and serves as a pillow to fall asleep on. This project allows the user to listen to many people's emotional landmarks and connections to the city, watch the lights, and feel cozy on the bus.
We began this project by focusing on tourists and their frequent ostracization and discomfort on Boston’s public transit. On the first day we wrote down certain words and then came up with ideas inspired by those words that would fix a certain problem of the bus. The flannel helmet was one of our initial ideas and we thought it would be a fun project to make and would be helpful to commuters and tourists on the bus. We also wanted to make a piece that would make them feel physically comfortable on the bus and more connected to the city of Boston. Our project evolved quite a bit from our initial idea of a flannel helmet to the Visual Lullaby. We started moving away from the idea of the flannel helmet once we were challenged to create a piece that also incorporated a neck pillow. As the idea evolved we utilized the new skills that we learned in the studio such as the Flora Arduino for the speakers and the Neopixels. We felt that these parts would make the Visual Lullaby beautiful and different. We spent a lot of time working on the lights to get them to do our current rainbow cycle and had to take parts from various example codes and fix them together. We also put a lot of work into the speakers to get them to play different people’s stories about Boston. We initially thought for the stories that we should have the pillow point out different fun facts for different places in the city, but we felt that it wasn’t personal or unique enough so we changed our idea to people’s individual histories in the city.
Our project has one speaker—connected to an Arduino and breadboard and a Neopixel LED that is connected to a Flora Arduino. The pillow is constructed out of 12 segmented fabric panels and a base, sewn together and stuffed. For the speakers we began by handmaking a pressure sensor that would work as a button, so when it was pressed the recorded stories would play. The sensor was constructed of conductive thread, felt, and sponge so that the conductive fabric circuit would complete itself when pressed together. Once we recorded the story (we only used one account from Sammi, a team member, due to time constraints) on Garageband, we had to change it to a .wav format in iTunes so that we could use it for the Arduino. Once we made it into a .wav we connected it to the USB so that it could upload to the Arduino. After first playing the recording we felt that it was too loud so we also made a volume sensor. For the NeoPixel LEDs we attached a Flora Arduino with wires and alligator clips. With some experimentation, we were able to change the pattern of the lights and choose what colors were displayed. For the final power supply, we sewed a battery into a slot on the Flora with conductive thread, and then sewed the entire arrangment to the base of the pillow with the same thread.
We encountered many challenges on this project such as getting the lights and speakers to work and arranging the design for the Visual Pillow. With the lights at points we weren’t able to get all the lights to come on, the codes wouldn’t work or the power sources wouldn’t work. For the speakers it was hard for us to get the file converted to a .wav, get the pressure sensor to work, and make sure that all the parts were connected. However, our group worked really well together and was able to work through all the challenges with ease.
We made our first version of the Visual Lullaby out of paper and tape. We based it loosely on the design of the Elizabethan ruffs. We started out with cutting slits in the paper and then overlapped them towards the center. On the side we also had a piece that was similar to blinders that would allow you to cover your eyes if you wanted to sleep or open up if you wanted to sight-see. It also had a speaker in the back to tell you fun facts about the city.
Our second iteration was made out of cardboard and duct tape. In this version we added different languages for people to choose from and a volume setting. We also made this piece with the shape of the neck pillow as the base.
The third iteration of the project we made out of felt and sewed it all together. We decided to place the lights and speakers on the inside after making this iteration and used the shape for the final.