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Date archive for: April 2017

thesis – thesis archive content


• 1 – 4 images with captions — 960 x 540 px

• Name  — Renata Gaui

• Thesis Title — hysteria 

• Relevant Categories — identity perception, female empowerment, empowerment, wearable technology, speech recognition

• Thesis Question — how can technology prompt conversations about micro-aggressions towards females?

• Elevator Pitch – A wearable device that detects verbal microaggressions towards females during daily conversations and reacts to it.

• First paragraph of long description — A wearable device that protests against misogynist linguistics habits: a ruffled shirt neck connected to a speech recognition software that detects verbal microaggressions towards females in a conversation – and reacts to it physically by revealing behind the ruffles a biting toy denture.

• Long description — On a daily basis, females are suppressed by negative vernacular habits.“you’re being emotional”, “are you on pms?”, “grow a pair”, “you’re so smart for a girl”, “don’t be a pussy” etc. make part of our daily interaction with people (males & females). they are cultural vices that often goes by without being questioned. is there a way that we can flip this pejorative speech and turn it into something that empower female? can emerging technologies work as tools to create conversations about cultural mannerisms? my thesis project is a wearable device that protests against misogynist linguistics habits. A ruffled shirt neck has embedded in it a hardware that is running a speech recognition software that is trained to detect verbal microaggressions towards females in a conversation. Once it recognizes that a micro aggressive expression was used, it reacts to it by making a denture toy (that is placed behind the ruffles) to bite – “mimicking” the aggressor and revealing itself by making the ruffles to fly through the denture movement.

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NIME – In the silence of my lonely room

Last semester I took a class called NIME: New Interfaces for Musical Experiments. Students are propmted to innovate how we generate sound and how we perceive it as a musical performance. My final piece was a performance in which I had small “instruments” that manipulated the sound on the background, as a way of breaking the expectations we have over the “beautifying” routine females are granted to be doing so.

So, there are a few things that are happening and function as instruments. Most of them are working through MaxMSP – except the analog synth necklace.

  • a webcam is using computer vision to detect how much of my lipstick I have on my lips and controlling the volume level.
    I feel this was the trickiest of the instruments, because the color percentage recognition with computer vision rely so much on proximity and lighting. I was able to control the lighting by making my own light frame – and also it worked as prop to make the audience feel like they were looking through the mirror, as if it was almost a peep show from a female getting ready. It also worked as a way of hiding the webcam, all my electronic components and computer from the audience. I fabricated the frame by cutting the wood on the CNC and the light is actually a christmas light socket for medium bulbs. After I had the light working properly, I started calibrating on the computer to make the color capture more accurate. It is still very flickery and I have to be very cautious about my position.


  • FSR sensors that sampled the song as I put my earrings.
    Being a wearables enthusiast, I was trying to push how i could make the earrings part of the performance. After a few tests and talks with professors & colleagues that work with live performance, I decided to create an illusion trick here: I had 02 FSR sensors over the lid of the wooden box/light frame connected to an arduino > connected to a MaxMSP patch. As I put my earrings, I brought the attention of the audience to the earring and my ear – while i was touch one of the FSR sensors with my elbow. So when I put the first earring it starts sampling and when I put the second earring it ends the sampling and start looping it.
  • Analog synthesizer necklace.
    Since the first semester of ITP, I am very instigated by analog circuits and most specifically analog synthesizers. Back then, I had to do a simple analog synthesizer for a class and be creative with the sensor / what made the analog synthesizer change the pitch and I did this funny fabric sensor that had a really interesting result:

    For the performance,  I decided to do a necklace and work with metal chains within necklaces to chance the pitch. I also to use a different type of chip, which made the circuit smaller to fit inside the golden crocodile. Once I had it working on a breadboard, I went and did a PCB for the circuit and for the batteries. IT doesn’t need that much voltage nor current, so I was able to use three coin cell 3V baterries. The only issue was that I didn’t know how to make it wireless in the time I had, so it was directly connected to the mixer (but it worked fine!).


  • A stocking that controlled the speed of the sample.
    I think this was the most challenging of all the instruments. For the first three weeks of NIME, we have to build new instruments and perform them for 1 minute. My last instrument was a stocking that controlled the speed of the sound. As I rolled the stockings, it sped the sound and as i put on / stretched it it slowed it down. I had a conductive thread sewn in zigzag and it was connected to an arduino, working as a capacitve sensor (starts at 00:40s)

    I think this was an experiment that worked really well and it was a bit clumsy the way I sewed the conductive thread. Sewing stockings in the sewing machine is really tricky, but after a lot of tests I was able to make my own system and machine settings to do so. The zigzag needs to be loose (thread can’t be too tensioned), so that it has movement to stretch without breaking. Since conductive threads are unstable, after testing a variety of conductive threads I ended up choosing to work with Agsis Conductive Silver Nylon Thread. Its conductivity is really good and because it has ~ nylon ~ in the composition, it’s hard to break.

    Once I had the stockings working, I went on another venture: try to make it wireless. After talking with Rubin, one of the residents from ITP, I decided to give a try to the Bluno Nano family. They are arduino MCs that have build-in bluetooth, really easy to pair between themselves and uploading code is just like any arduino board. I had then two MCs for this experiment, one that was the central / connected to the computer and sending the variations of the stockings to MaxMSP; and the other, peripheral, on the stockings, to sense and transmit the stockings variations. Ideally I would have a microcontroller in each stocking but bluetooth devices can only pair one device a time. The solution I came up for this issue was to make a pocket with the microcontroller that had a metal snap (conductive!) that could be attached to the stocking – and be changed in the middle of the performance. I also did some battery holder PCB to attach to the microcontroller and look super seamless. For some reason that I didn’t figure out in time, the way I was arranging the batteries was not giving enough voltage for the microcontroller (it was picking, would work for 5 seconds and then stopped working). So for the performance, I just connected the microcontroller pocket to a power socket, like a phone charger. To make the pocket, I used a fake leather vinyl fabric I have worked with before, cut it on the sillouette machine / sewed it on the singer.

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thesis – iteration spreadsheet analysis


after (finally!) ending my iterations, i had to make this spreadsheet to compare them through different aspects: intention, specification, interaction, feedback type, positive and negative aspects. i was trying to keep characteristics that i wanted to try through every iteration, but i feel like only after doing all of them i realized what are the characteristics of my final wearable device (in blue).

The characteristics I want my object to have:

  • looks like a regular apparel piece
  • suprise users / reveal something
  • approach the interruption through comic relief
  • in some way translate human emotion / expression such as disconfort or disagreement
  • be obvious for both users that it is reacting

My project will be a ruffle shirt neck that when detects a verbal microaggression will react to it by revealing the biting denture underneath the ruffles.

I’ll be focusing this week on the fabrication of this project having in mind a final version that works with my computer and an arduino uno. Currently I’m working with a python speech recognition library that does the analysis to find the microaggressions that is communicating with the arduino – that is controlling whatever output i want to.  Ideally it will be implemented on a raspberryPi and everything will be on python, but considering my timeline (and deadlines), I’ll be focusing on how to improve the system and the fabrication of it.

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thesis – post midterm & quick n dirty

so after thesis midterm, i took the week off (spring break!!) but I was cooking in my head how to tackle the issues brought up by the reviewers. I also talked with Despina Papadopoulos and Lauren McCarthy to talk about outputs & audience.

  • who is my audience?
    one of the feedbacks that I got from the midterm presentation was that it was not clear who was my audience. is it the aggressor or the aggressee? Ideally my audience is the aggressor and the aggressee – maybe through different stimulus, but they will be notified at the same time. So ie while the aggressee will receive a “introverted” feedback such as vibration, temperature change, electric chocks (?) etc. the aggressor will get an “extroverted” feedback like a visual change on the necklace, sounds, lights etc.
  • what are the characteristics i want this object to have?
    i think that my biggest goal at this point is try to think how  to translate human expression in a wearable device. do I want it to be funny/serious? do I want it to surprise the users in a subtle or a disruptive way? is it something that looks “normal”/ daily use or is it something that looks like a haute-couture / art piece?having these questions in my mind, I decided to do variations that tries to tackle these aspects in different ways.
  • variations / rivet grids
    to test the human expressions matter of my piece, I created a latex necklace with a gird of rivets that allows me to explore that kind of shapes I can change through a cable system. here are a few of my variations:

    even though these variations were all ~ manually ~ activated, I believe I was able to learn a lot about the material and the feasibility of what I’m trying to achieve. so for the quick and dirty, i decided to do a new variation that combine internal and external feedback.

  • quick and dirty show
    for the quick and dirty show, I decided to test the combo internal + external feedback while proposing a simulated scenario. I had microaggressive expressions written in cards, so the proposal was to have two people in a conversation. One would be using the necklace, the other would take one of the cards and try to find a moment in the conversation tho say it. Most of the times I was the one using the necklace, but I was able to have other people using it as well.

    when the microaggresive term was said, i’d push a button that would apply voltage on the shape changing alloy and reveal the “nope” written. most of the time people noticed, but it felt very subtle. because my user test involved a conversation, i  ended up testing it with 7 people and this is the feedback i got from people:

    – who is the user?
    – “nope” felt more like a intervention that was shutting the conversation or verly negative instead of raising a question.  how can I confront in a friendly way, that make people feel open do discuss about the topic?
    – people that were prompted to say the expression felt uncomfortable about using it in the conversation but understood it right away when the “nope” appeared.
    – try to turn the issue around. so maybe make people uncomfrotable by what they said through repetition or some kind of sassy response. (either like a pirate’s parrot or something like “excuse me”/”excuse you”)
    – maybe it’s about not interveining in the moment, but sending the aggressor some kind of information about what they said. ie, maybe send them a message with an article about microaggressions or the specific expression that was said?
    – what is the conversation i intend to have after the wearable change?
    – how to make this experience more “sticky”? what si the bordeline of trolling someone and whatthe device is response?
    – it felt too still, needs to contrast more / create a bigger direct impression.
    – what are you trying to say?


  • post quick & dirty steps
    so after tuesday, I decided I need to continue testing to find two main things:
    – the tone of my wearables device: how I want to approach the usage of microaggressions?
    – the final format of it pt1: will I consider it a daily accessory, portability challenges etc or is it something that is an art piece, will use materials that require high voltage etc?
    – the final format of it pt2: will it be a series of iterations or will it be a single piece?


i’ve also realized that in the end, it doesn’t matter what my project ends up being as long as i get the conversation happening.

and also i feel like my thesis question has changed to: how can a wearable device be a tool that propels conversations about microaggresions?

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