Pendulums

Last week I worked on a way to provide some sort of visual feedback to the user of our system. The object of our game–if you would call it that–is to bring the ecosystem into harmony. But, how do we portray “harmony”?

If our model of the ecosystem is going to be made up of these sculptures, then why not portray harmony and disharmony through motion? I got to thinking about putting these sculptures on pendulums, and driving them to sway back and forth. The engineer in me loved this, because a pendulum has a natural inclination to sway at its natural frequency, and setting it into motion doesn’t require much energy. It also fits thematically, with the ebb and flow of the tides, and the motion of waves in the ocean.

I composed a simple program to visualize this motion. At first, the “pendulums” are driven weakly at a different frequency than that which they naturally sway to, causing pseudo-random fluctuations, and a general appearance of disorder between the different pendulums. But, if you bring them into “harmony,” their movements slowly begin to synchronize.

You can check out the Processing Demo here. Click anywhere in the window to bring them into and out of synchronization.

My next task was to actually build one of these pendulums. With a crudeness that would bring a mechanical engineer to tears, I put one together, and drove it with a servo. It’s noisy, and doesn’t quite have the interactivity needed of it, but it can indeed show the same natural, and unnatural fluctuations as in the software model.

 

 

 

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