Polaroid Land Camera

Over the last few months, I have been working on a virtual exhibit project with the University of Colorado Boulder Media Archaeology Lab. My colleague Dr. Jessica FitzPatrick and I have been putting together an augmented reality popup book to tell stories of some fascinating technology artifacts.

One of these artifacts, a Polaroid Land camera, has quite a bit of personal interest to me. The story goes that Dr. Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, came up with the idea for instant photography during a conversation with his 8-year-old daughter. Supposedly, she wondered why she could not immediately see the results of a photograph and that prompted Land to begin work on an instant camera.

Polaroid has a fascinating history, full of invention, innovation, stubbornness, and failure to foresee the future. There are stories associated with the Apartheid regime in South Africa, pornography in post-Soviet Russia, Andy Warhol, and many others. I would highly recommend checking out “Polaroid Now: The History and Future of Polaroid Photography” by Steve Crist and Oskar Smolokowski.

I am hoping to post some AR content shortly, but in the meantime, here are a few detailed shots of the Polaroid Land camera that we are using in the virtual exhibit and the virtual pop-up book.

TechShop Game Design Challenge (drafted by Mike Depew)

Last week we held our Orientation and Lunch Party for the iFest|TechShop Game Design Challenge. Thanks to everyone for coming out and sharing your ideas! Please see the information below for updates about the Challenge and the Request for Proposal (RFP).

About the iFest|TechShop Game Design Challenge

The TechShop of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences (iSchool) invite you to participate in the iFest|TechShop Game Design Challenge. The challenge: work in teams of three to design and develop an interactive game. As part of the challenge, student teams are required to submit a proposal detailing their game idea and concept. Three student teams will be selected, based on their proposals, to develop working prototypes of their games using the tools and services at TechShop. Those three teams will present their game prototypes at iFest 2015 (Feb. 6).

The team judged to have designed and developed the best game concept and prototype will win a prize of $500 per person.

Proposal Requirements

  • Propose a new game concept or significantly improve/modify an existing game
  • Proposed game must have a narrative or back-story
  • Proposed game must have robotics/physical computing components powered by either Arduino or Hummingbird kits
  • Final prototype must be fabricated and work within the described parameters of the game

Proposals must be submitted by: October 10, 2014

Follow this link for the full RFP.

Advising & Support Workshops

iSchool staff and faculty will be available to answer questions and provide advising to teams during the dates/times listed below. Drop by any of these workshops to brainstorm game ideas and concepts, learn how to use Arduino and Hummingbird kits, and get feedback on your proposals. For additional support from staff and faculty, see the attached RFP.

Proposal Advising & Introduction to Arduino Kits
Friday, September 19: 2:30PM – 4:00PM

Proposal Advising & Introduction to Hummingbird Kits
Friday, September 26: 2:30PM – 4:00PM

Proposal Advising

Friday, October 3: 2:30PM – 4:00PM

All advising and support workshops will be held on the 3rd floor.

Registration Form

If you are interested in participating, please complete the registration form. Please indicate whether or not you have already formed a team to participate in the Game Design Challenge. If you do not have a team, complete the form and we will help you find other students interested in forming a team. If you already have formed a team, all members of your team must complete a separate registration form.

Register for the iFest|TechShop Game Design Challenge

Open-Source Medical Simulator

When I worked for the School of Medicine, I worked quite a bit with medical doctors and educators are experts on medical education and medical simulations. Over the years I’ve seen many simulators, ranging from simple text-based scenarios (kind of like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game to elaborate simulations taking place in Second Life to the extremely expensive (and extremely creepy) mannequin simulators.

The one thing that struck me about the mannequin simulators is how limited they are given the price tag. The less expensive ones are barely more than plastic dolls, and the ones that attempt to emulate human physiology in its entirety are difficult to program and are very finicky.

So… I decided to see if I could build a medical simulator that costs under $300.00. Instead of trying to build the whole mannequin at once, I began to identify learning objectives for medical students and try to build individual organ simulators that would meet these objectives.

I’m currently working on an endoscopy simulator and it’s turning out to be more challenging than I ever expected. I had to learn how to build 3D models, how to manipulate and slice existing models, how to work with 3D printers, CNC routers and vacuum formers.

I first tried to build a stomach and esophagus model by 3D-printing it. However, as much as I love MakerBot Replicator printers, they can only print small items and the actual success rate is only about 60%. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to kick a 3D printer through a wall after a 4-hour print would fail 3.5 hours into the job.






IMAG3276After realizing that I could not successfully print a usable model on a MakerBot, I spoke with several people at Pittsburgh TechShop and they suggested vacuum-forming my models.






I cut a 3D model of human stomach and esophagus from high-density foam and will try to vacuum-form a prototype in a couple of week. If it works, I’ll make a more permanent mold out of MDF or wood. Once the mold is ready, I’ll break out the Arduino!