Flushing Forests
    Physical Prototyping — DES 387
    10 weeks, Spring 2012
    Stephen Bader (Interaction Design)
    MY ROLE:
    Product Engineering and Development, Prototyping, Physical Interaction Design, and Research
  • Our challenge for this project was to leverage the Arduino platform to sense a situation and alert the user to react accordingly. This is like how a smoke detector senses that something is burning and alerts the user using audio feedback, rather than just putting out the fire itself. The hope is that over time, the user would learn to take this action themselves without the governance of a device.
    Though it began as a joke, we narrowed our focus to raising users' awareness of toilet paper waste. Flushing Forests has the added challenge of trying to take such a silly concept in to a more professional and academic environment.
  • Flushing Forests is intended to be mounted in a public bathroom rather than a household one to take advantage of the idea of public humiliation. Alone in the stalls, users are allowed to use as much toilet paper as they want, without consequence. Through the use of audio feedback we bring what is normally a very private interaction into the public space. We shame users that pull too much toilet paper and commend those who do use the recommended amounts. 
    From our research, we based the code on a maximum of 6 squares. With each subsequent pull, that cap reduces by 1 until it is at 2 squares, where it will stay indefinitely. We did this because we understand that each person may simply just need more toilet paper. to finish the job, or blow their nose, wipe off makeup, etc. By reducing the maximum, we are getting users to use less per pull. 
    If the user remains under the maximum number of squares, the speakers play happy nature sounds, with birds, bubbling brooks, and the like. As they get closer to the max, the peaceful sounds fade away and become a loud chainsaw, which represents the trees wasted by the user.
  • Our first project poster, giving a basic overview of how the system works.
  • The second poster summarizing our research and findings. 
  • Along with standard internet research, we also passed out and collected "Poop Journals" to students around campus.
  • These are mini printed diaries where users could log (no pun intended) how much toilet paper they used in a session, along with details like if they folded it neatly or wadded it into a ball.
  • The paper dispenser is controlled by an Arduino Uno microprocessor. We started with the most basic of Processing sketches, "blink", the "Hello World" of Arduino.
    More info on Arduino can be found here.
  • To measure the amount of paper pulled, we broke open and tried a lot of different components. 
    One of our initial ideas was to give users toilet paper amounts based on the size and quality of their bowel movements, as compared to the Bristol stool scale. For this, we purchased and tried using a methane sensor, but our research never found any conclusive evidence correlating methane quantities to stool qualities.
  • The underside of an MP3 shield which ultimately failed due to dated code libraries. This interfaces with the Arduino board by lining up and connecting the corresponding pins and has an SD card slot and audio jacks.
  • The method we used to count sheets of toilet paper was inspired by trackball mice. As you can see, internally the trackball spins these bladed wheels which break an IR beam. A certain number of breaks means a certain distance to move the cursor.
    This was a standard PS/2 mouse, several of which were purchased in bulk at the local Goodwill.
    (Side note: Look at how disgusting these are inside with dead skin and hair! Clean your mice, people!)
  • This is a proof of concept test of the IR/trackball method. We spun a cardboard wheel between an IR emitter and receiver to see if the code could count the amount of breaks. The LED would turn off whenever the beam was broken.
    This ultimately failed because the code was constantly receiving IR values every millisecond, and we coudn't track the changes quickly enough. We needed a more manual solution.
  • This solution was actually inspired by the game show Wheel of Fortune.
    It uses a lever switch to count sheets. The lever only has 2 states, up and down, which are a lot easier to track than the infinite stream of data from the IR beams.
    Three clicks means one sheet of paper has been pulled. This would work in conjunction with a wheel, which spins with the toilet paper and clicks the lever.
  • A demo of how the lever with LED works. Three clicks equals one sheet, so the LED blinks on the fourth click to indicate it was on a new square of toilet paper.
  • A proof of concept test to show that the wheel could move with the toilet paper's friction.
  • Here, we are testing the entire set up with different audio options. We tried it with piezo speakers, which are commonly used in musical birthday cards.
  • After completing the data input, we shifted our focus to the feedback output. This consists of an SD card shield and a portable speaker with 3.5mm jack.
  • Since the SD card shield didn't come with its own music library, we had to find one online. The open source nature of Arduino, meant that we had to do some funky encoding of the audio to get it to play on the speaker. Here we are, testing our set up with the songs "I Need a Dollar" by Aloe Blacc and the "By Mennon" jingle.
  • While I worked on the coding and internals, my partner Stephen worked on the enclosure. Here, he is preparing the acryllic to be bent into shape. The large PVC tube was used to create the curvature. 
  • Stephen is using the hard right angles on the hot and soft acryllic to bend the shape.
  • Sanding down the faces as smoothly as possible before spraying it with matte white in the booth.
  • We practiced fabricating the enclosure a few times until we got the process down smoothly.
  • Our working prototype, held together with masking tape.
  • Final product vanity shot, wall mounted as it would be in a bathroom.
A device that encourages you to use less toilet paper per pull through audio feedback and public shaming.
Interaction Design, Programming, UI/UX
Date Created