Conveying direction in a fun, ambient way:
Hold the vinyl figurine in your hand and walk around. The critter will glow different colors depending on the direction it is pointing.
Several concurrent but disparate “discoveries” on my part led to the development of this interactive vinyl toy.
Kidrobot manufactures several vinyl figures meant to be blank canvases for one-of-a-kind DIY art toys. People have made some truly amazing, unbelievably creative figurines using paint and even polymer clay. But, as an engineer, I thought “how can I make these interactive?”
Meanwhile, I read that some scientists believe that pigeons may see magnetic fields, possibly overlaid in their visual field. That lead to some daydreaming on my part about how that would work for a human.
Lastly, at more or less the same time, it occurred to me that hue in the HSL color model, represented as an angle, is analogous to compass heading which is also represented as an angle. Why not display heading as a color on the color wheel?
In prototype form the electronics take up a good bit of space. But they can easily be miniaturized to fit inside the figurine by using a custom circuit instead of a general purpose development board.
On a more conceptual level, I’ve been interested for some time in using our existing senses at the edge of conscious awareness such that they provide a new form sensory perception. In a way, this is not really a new concept—we’ve grown used to watches providing us with a more precise sense of time than we might have biologically. As technology makes seamless human-machine interface easier and less expensive, we can expect these kinds of extrasensory perception to become more like senses and less like carrying a gadget around and looking at it from time to time.
So, the cute vinyl toy is not exactly “at the edge of conscious awareness.” It’s really just a proof of concept (and why not throw in a bit of whimsy to make it interesting). But, imagine, the RGB LED could sit just outside your field of vision, casting a faint glow. If tuned right, it’s not hard to see that glow falling below your threshold of conscious awareness while still providing you with valuable information. That is the future of human-machine interface.