Lights! Speed! Action! Fundamentals of Physical Computing for Programmers

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 9:00am to 10:30am
Anaheim Convention Center
Ballroom E

The definition of “computer graphics” as used by artists in new media and kinetic areas of the arts is much more expansive than simply rendering to a screen. A visit to the SIGGRAPH 2013 Art Gallery, for example, reveals a wide variety of uses of physical computing, embedded control, sensors, and actuators in the service of art. This course is for programmers, educators, artists, and others who would like to learn the basic skills necessary to include physical components in their computing systems.

The course is targeted at programmers with little or no electronics background. It begins with basic electronics concepts as they are used with physical computing components, then reviews a variety of sensors that provide information about the physical environment (light, motion, distance from objects, flex, temperature, etc.), programmer-controlled lights (LEDs), and programmer-controlled motion (servos, motors). The use of these components is described in the context of the Arduino microcontroller, but the topics are general and will transfer to a variety of other computing platforms. Although the course includes a few simple formulas, the strong focus will be on practical usage and common-sense applications in real circuits.

9 am
Introduction and Motivation

9:05 am
Electronics Fundamentals - Charge, Voltage, Current – The Water Model - Ohm’s Law; Kirchoffs Laws; Practicalities of Wiring and Powering Circuits and Arduino Platform

9:25 am
Lights! - LEDs - Electrical Properties - Solutions for Lots of LEDs

9:40 am
Speed! - Environmental Sensors - Resistive Sensors - Voltage Dividers - Switches - Analog to Digital Conversion

10 am
Action! - Servos and Motors - Powering and Controlling Hobby Servos - DC Motors - Stepping Motors

10:20 am
Conclusions and Context - Lightening Review of Kinetic Art and Physical Computing, and How This all Relates to a Broad Definition of “Computer Graphics” in the Fine Arts




Basic programming skills

Intended Audience

Programmers with little or no electronics experience.


Erik Brunvand
University of Utah