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Capacitive Architecture - Fall 2009 Independent Study Advisor: David Benjamin Partner: Yuval Borochov

Project: Exploring potential for interactive achitecture through capacitive sensing



Every day we engage sophisticated but invisible networks, ranging from cell phone towers to motion detectors that open doors. Through a series of functional prototypes, we developed a variety of strategies to use the actual architecture around us - the metallic fixtures and finish surfaces - as input to simple but rich interactions. By using only cheap and readily-available materials and components, and publising our findings in an ongiong blog, we hope to allow a variety of users to tap into their surroundings. Our final prototype included a highly visible wave-form sheet metal installation, foil stickers, and conductive paint as three ways to build a simple proximity sensor. These controlled plug-and-play outputs, including simple LEDs of varying brightness and the play and record functions of a digital sound module. Blog at

Capacitive Arch. David Benjamin

Light-field installation/prototype. Three LEDs behind cloth brighten as the user puts his/her hands closer.

Left: Wiring into an off-the-shelf recording module. Right: Foam core speech bubble with conductive paint.

Prototype 1 with simple aluminum foil sensor. The simple which allow it to be used as a proximity sensor with a range of circuit allows the Arduino to measure the permittivity of the air about 24�. Our primary focus was to develop methods of applying between the aluminum and user’s hand, returning a range of values capacitive sensing to the architecture around us.

Sound wall Installation - play and record sensors, digital recording microphone/speaker and calibration controls, and foil sticker for variable-brightness LED.

Cut out stencil

Second lead wire

Tape up stencil

Conductive paint

Tape Arduino board

Connect ground

First lead wire

Connect LED

Connect battery


Farther = dimmer

Closer = brighter

Michael Walch GSAPP Independent Research - Capacitive Architecture