User Response

Due to the problems I had when building my design in the public space, I was not able to test my work on many people; only people who had helped me with filming and testing along the way. So from the people who had seen my work, here are some of the responses:

“It’s interesting to see how code inputted on Processing/Arduino can create a 3D installation”

“I liked how it was displayed as you could get close to it and see how the liquid behaved both from the top as well as the sides”

“It was intriguing to see something different from other projects which made it stand out for me and probably would do for anyone else walking by too who would normally just see things on a screen”

“I found it created an enigma at first which drew me into it and made me want to look closer”

“It’s good to see how the magnets worked with the ferrofluid, even though it didn’t completely work it still showed the process of how it could have worked”

“I really liked the effect the magnet had on the liquid; very eye-catching!”

“I liked the simplicity of the design”

I am very pleased with these responses and i’m sure if I had time to display my working design, I would have had even more responses and more variety of answers. I said in my Audience Reception Theory post that I would have my own intended views of how audiences would perceive my design:

  1. 3D installations are bringing design closer to real-life
  2. The ferrofluid is almost life-like
  3. Audience engagement is key to making some designs work
  4. Science can be very interesting when combined with interactive design

I am pleased that a few of these readings have been met – it is clear that the audience knew to look closer as it was a very ‘eye catching’ subject, and that they ‘really liked’ the magnets with the ferrofluid and found it like an ‘enigma’. So at least two of my intended outcomes were met, and if more people would have seen my final design they may have thought about the fluid being life-like or how 3D design is making things more realistic to the audience.

Final Outcome – Ferrofluid with weaker magnets

After having problems with the first magnets I used being too strong, I ordered a pack of 10 weaker magnets to be delivered next day. The good thing about the magnets I ordered is that they are very thin and can be stacked on top of another to create more strength if needed. At first I just tried out the system with just 1 magnet on each end, but this didn’t do a lot in the way of spikes in the fluid, although the good sign was that the motor was still spinning even with the magnets close to the fluid. I then jumped ahead and stacked another two on top of each end, this produced more of a spike when next to the liquid, however it still made the motor jitter and get stuck (first two clips in video below). So I went back down to two magnets on each end, this was the perfect compromise as although the spikes it created weren’t as impressive as when I used the bigger magnets, there were still visible spikes and the motor would also spin which is what I was not achieving before.

(Ferrofluid is very hard to clean so please excuse the dirty perspex box in the video!)

Although the motor is still a little jittery in some places and the sensor sometimes throws out some random data, I am very pleased with how hard I have worked to finally get an outcome close to what I had imagined. The main thing I am pleased that worked is the Arduino circuit with the sensor and motor, as this is what I had spent a lot of time on with coding and wiring. If I hadn’t managed to get the ferrofluid to work today I still would have been happy with using the LED’s as my final outcome, because all I my intention was, was to build an installation using a sensor as the mode of interaction, with some kind of visual display as an output, and this is what I have created.


LED’s – Possible Solution

The main idea I wanted to portray through my work, is the idea of the audience creating an interesting visual through the use of a sensor. As I had not created this idea through my first attempt use of ferrofluid I thought hard about what other ways I could create a visual without using such technical equipment where things could go wrong. So I had a thought for a possible solution – using the same frame on the motor but replace the magnets with LED’s, so it would be the same concept as I would have used with the ferrofluid but with light instead of ferrofluid spikes. The closer someone is to the sensor the faster the motor spins, therefore giving different lighting effects. I had to do this at home as I had control over the lights so I could film it in the dark, I do not have the control over the lights in the foyer of Weymouth House so it would not be as effective as if I did it at home. I asked my friend to walk backwards and forwards within the space to see the difference in speeds. I had a worry that the sensor would not pick up information in the dark but it still worked and I got the results I had intended. I attached batteries with wires to the wooden sticks, and then just added in the LED’s to the end of the wires.


I am pleased that I managed to come up with a different solution so quickly, and that it is an interesting visual but still using the same Arduino set-up. This meant I did not have to alter any code or any of the wiring which I would have had to if I had changed to a stronger motor.

My next task: I ordered some weaker magnets to try and see if they will work better with the motor and the ferrofluid like before, but without the motor getting stuck.



Building the installation and testing

Today I build my installation using the resources I could:

  1. I started off my using a rubber battery end protector which fitted the point of the motor perfectly.
  2. I then glued two wooden coffee stirrers together and affixed them to the rubber battery protector.
  3. From this I then trimmed the wood so it would fit in the base of the perspex box I bought.
  4. I then attached the magnets to each end of the wooden stirrers.
  5. I finally attached the whole thing into the point of the motor.

This was the basis for the mechanical part of my installation. The weight of the magnets made the base of the motor struggle a little, but I knew all I had to do was secure it in place for it to work properly again.

I then had to construct the physical form of my installation, I already had the perspex box but I needed something to raise it off the table to be able to put the motor under, so I asked around at uni and found a large block of polystyrene which i cut up into even blocks and put under each corner.


(A little make-shift I know, but it did the job!)

The video below shows the process after this:

The first clip shows everything working fine, I used another section of polystyrene which already had a hole in it the perfect size for the motor to be held in. I taped this to the table so it would not move and jitter, meaning the only thing to move would be head of the motor. So everything is working, until I put the ferrofluid into the container. The attraction between the magnets and the fluid was too strong for the motor to continue turning. The motor struggled to turn but every now and then it would complete a full rotation.
I tried adding on an extra bit of cardboard on top of the magnets so there was a greater distance between the magnets and the fluid, this helped a little bit and managed to see a few rotations, but I was still not getting the outcome I was expecting.

I then decided to change the set up, and moved to a different table. This time I put the motor and the magnets underneath the table and the box with the fluid on the top. The sensor, Arduino and battery rest on the lower table, while the motor with the magnets is closely underneath the table, resting on the polystyrene. I had a slightly better outcome from this as there was more occasional rotations, but I still did not have the outcome I was wanting.



The video shows how the motor and fluid was moving when no one was interacting with it – it would jitter and slowly move, then sometimes rotate. It then shows me interacting with it up close – when the motor is supposed to be turning fast, it gets stuck, then when I move out the way (at 1:30) it continues its rotation. This shows that when it is meant to be moving slower, it has the time to move slowly, but when it is meant to be turning fast, it gets more stuck and doesn’t move.

The only two possibly solutions I can think to fix this problem are:

  1. A bigger, more powerful motor
  2. Weaker magnets

So within the time-frame, I am not going to be able to get a bigger motor as this would require a change in the coding and they are also very expensive. So I am going to order some weaker magnets and try again to see if it will make a difference.