ZombieBook Pro

The ZombieBook Pro is a continuation of the sound project we did earlier in the semester. The “broken” laptop is handed to a participant and they are instructed to do a series of activities with it in the style of a tech support tutorial. Here is a filmed run through of the performance:

ZombieBook Pro – Performace from Jesse Horwitz on Vimeo.

I wanted to make something that reanimates my dead laptop and memorializes it. This was an object that I used and valued above all others for many years but when it began its slow decent into inoperability I quickly grew frustrated and detached. I though about what it would be like if this were a living creature with wants and desires, and how cold and abrupt its abandonment would seem. I wanted to make something that created sense of life clinging to a failing body.

At first I thought this would use an accelerometer and some timed sounds, lights and vibrations to create this effect. However as I began working on it I ran into some power management problems and nothing seemed to be as powerful an effect as I hoped. Lights were dimmer than expected, motors ran more slowly etc… At the same time I realized that the electronics I had replaced on the inside were almost as interesting and relevant as the damaged exterior case, sounds and lights. I couldn’t figure out how to position the Zombiebook so that the user would experience all of these and feel a connection to it as a sort of living thing. This was super disappointing and I was not feeling great about handing it in until I had this idea to turn it into a sort of performance and have the user follow a set of instructions. I wrote out a script that I thought would be inviting and funny for the user but also kind of brutal and hateful towards the computer. In combination with the chaotic sounds and lights this created what I thought would be a Milgram experiment atmosphere.


This project made use of a MacBook Pro 2010 case, an Arduino uno, and ADXL335 accelerometer, a handful of high power LEDs, a bluetooth serial link, one of the original computer fans, and a battery pack. Here is a video of the internal components running without interaction:

ZombieBook Pro – Internals from Jesse Horwitz on Vimeo.


Originally I was hoping that I could send data to a max patch from the accelerometer and then send data back to the lights and fan from the computer. Unfortunately I couldn’t get this communication to work in both directions at the same time so I ended up randomizing blinking in the lights and fan. To my surprise this actually came out to seeming fairly organic. The accelerometer data then fed into a max patch that triggered a series of different sounds depending on the intensity of movement. The sounds would also speed up, slow down, and change looping behavior as well. Frankly, this part of the project worked well for my purposes but it felt extremely hacky. I had a hard time smoothing the accelerometer input and the patch requires a lot of “setup” each time it is run.

Ultimately this project felt like a rollercoaster to work on. At one point I thought I had made something really useless but then by reframing it I ended up with one of my favorite ITP projects so far. I think there are a lot of opportunities to expand this as well so I’m looking forward to that… If I have time.


The unbreakable breakable board process

After coming up with the short story of what u.b.b. represents for me (a range of emotions from embarrassment to despair to concentration to respect) I kept picturing the actual object would be a board that people would get a chance to hit and can hear the feelings that I felt from being unsuccessful at breaking it. The feelings would be translated into thoughts that I had about breaking the board…and what I felt the board could possibly be saying to me (which I felt could be sound bites that brought out various emotions)

I knew that I wanted the board to be held up by hands the way my instructors would hold the board up for breaking, and I talked to some of the students in the soft robotics class about casting/making molds of my hands that could hold up a board but the downfall of that was it’s a time consuming process and it would shatter if people hit the board. The next best thing I came up with was using artist hands (the kind that people use to practice drawing hands) that I could attach to the piece of wood to hold it up.

The materials used to make the object and hand stand, are artist hands, scrap wood, 11x11in and 1/2in thick wood, wood glue, clamps, (drill and screws…not in picture)
End result

Getting it to look like this was a pain, because gluing and clamping the fingers down took individual clamps and the fingers kept slipping out of the clamp or sliding out of place. I ended up using hot glue to reinforce the wood glue…which for the short term worked, but it ended up breaking by the time class rolled around a week later. I also ended up drilling the stumps of the hands into another piece of wood so everything would be balanced and stand alone. In doing that, I realized that I wanted the object to be attached to a wall so that it’s in front of you when you strike it instead of below you on a stand.

Because of our last class where we could break or try to break something (Jessie’s computer) I know that my classmates would really try to break this board and what would happen would be the board would break away from the hands but not break in half….which happened with me hitting it hard right before class (stupid move, but has made me think about how I would reinforce if was in an actual installation, what signage or information I would lay out to get the point across)

After making the physical object I made the max patch with reference to my my NIME patch and arduino code because I thought it was very similar to my NIME instrument, in the sense of applying pressure to be a trigger to make sound. The patch below is set for two sounds that would be hooked up to two sensors.

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 7.08.32 PM
The overall patch that has serial communication, the conversion of ascii, the sub patches, and that pathway to play sound
Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 7.18.59 PM
This is the sub patch that preloads the buffer
Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 7.19.14 PM
this is the sub patch that determines the threshold or the sensitivity of the pressure sensor that doesn’t depend on the arduino threshold. Once the right range of the sensitivity is met it sends a signal to start and play the sound

The sounds I’m using are a mix of sound bites and my thoughts in relation to not being able to break the board. I want to use sound bites as the sounds of the board teasing me or making fun of me for not completing my task. The laugh from The Simpsons does a good job of being mocking and annoying, when I hear it I feel a quick touch of embarrassment and want to duck and hide it’s accurate in how I felt for a portion of time. What’s hard is sharing my own thoughts, which are reminders to myself to keep trying or when I let in the defeat get to me, because it’s not just emotional it’s personal.
sound 1
sound 2
sound 3
What I liked in class, was how I explained the object’s significance and the meaning it held for me. While the object was something of a trophy of my defeat, it became something I respected because it helped me to become a better martial artist with the amount of practice I was putting in. It also brought my instructors into perspective because whenever I’d fail, I would either have them there saying encouraging words or I’d have their words in my head. I made me want to not just have the teasing board but more meaning with the sounds and that’s where my thoughts and words come in.

Next was thinking about what I could use for the electronics to connect max/arduino. My first thought was to use FSRs as a pressure switch on the underside of the board and I would scale the sensitivity of the FSR so that a good push or hit would trigger the sound. IT DIDN’T WORK because the board itself was too thick. I thought about putting it on top of the board and adding a thin board to it but I discarded that idea because I already glued the hands down and didn’t want to pry them off and I didn’t want to add more to the object. I want the board itself to be as true to the actual breaking board and I think that by adding more material or layers to it, it wouldn’t be true to what I want it to be.
From there I used a vibration sensor under the board…it came from a Chinese box of sensors and the coils were fragile and broke when I hit the board….so I ended up using a piezo disk which surprised me by working really well provided that there was a bit of a gap in between the sensor and the board. I did put it on the surface of the board for testing it out and I’ve decided to carve out some of the wood from the underside of the board and fill in the gap with foam and putty or wood glue so that it could be solid. I’m okay with using the piezo disk compared to the FSR because of the size (piezo is much smaller than the square FSR) and how much effort (not much) you need to put into hitting it.
I used a knock sensor example from arduino
Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 7.03.43 PM

Test of hitting the board attached to arduino/max in this video at about 9 seconds in, you’ll see when Mathura hits the board (the piezo disk is under the tape) the green light flashes on the arduino and it play a very faint sound. But what’s great is that every time she hits the board it flashes so the sensitivity, and lag between both the arduino and max works.
Once this worked I switched the piezo to the underside of the board and I tried it out and that’s where the trouble came, because I hit it too hard and the board fell out of the hands.

Fixing and finishing:
Since the hands and the board is separated I’m going to use a few piezos on the top of the board and cover it with veneer, which Ben has shown in Subtraction and I think that could work as a way to hide the tech but not take away from the board.
I think that as an installation this would need signage to explain the point of it, and what it means to me…because looking at it you wouldn’t know what it’s for or what you would have to do.
The idea of using light as a way to highlight different parts of the board to emphasize that it can’t be broken is one that I didn’t think about at all and I’m wondering how to do that maybe as an iteration of this object.

Our Plastic Bags

Our “Emotional Objects” project was a readymade object paired with an emotion. For my piece, I decided to go with “serene plastic bag”. I’ve accumulated a fair amount of plastic bags, saving them for other uses instead of going straight into the trash.

Anthropomorphizing the bags in service of giving them an emotion was a little challenging. I noticed that many bags say “Thank you”, and not just the iconic ones you may be thinking of. But it felt a little flat or obvious to dwell on this too deeply. Ultimately, I decided I was going to accept a certain level of incompleteness in their personality. A plastic bag doesn’t do much for the majority of its life. If there was a kind of limit to their intellect, I could imagine them as blissfully ignorant, rolling and floating from one place to the next. Plastic bags don’t want or need anything. If doing nothing, more or less, is their natural state, then perhaps that is the state in which they are the most happy. I imagined a lump of bags swimming alone in the ocean, wanting for nothing and perfectly content with their lives.


The core is Arduino only, with outputs for light and motor (fans) and an analog input for an ultrasonic sensor (presence detection). There was a good amount of experimentation in regards to the build. Sometimes I have problems truly envisioning how something is going to look, and wind up having to actually build it. After playing with a few different ideas, my main approach was a two tiered system connected by string.

The top panel holds the fans in place, pointing down. The bottom panel holds the arduino, ultrasonic sensor and lights above, and the bags below. There are holes in the bottom panel to facilitate light and airflow. Extra bags are placed around all components to obscure the gear and create a “flock” of bags.


I wound up trying out a couple different motor shields for the Arduino, making my own fans out of DC motors and hot glue, and playing with a few different bag placement approaches as I went along.


The physics of the bags, the weight of everything, how things are secured and ways to create motion (not too fast, not too slow), turned into a moving target as the construction went on. Namely, it was hard to get visible motion and audible rustling of bags without making the movement too energized. I learned plenty and had fun, but I might wind up making more variations of this project now that I know more about plastic bags as a medium.

Sleepy Lamp





sleepyLamp from Jingru Yin on Vimeo.


The sleepy lamp is a reflection of myself. Always feeling sleepy, having procrastination especially when I need to work,   staying in home all days and feeling be stocked in my bedroom, dreaming a lot.

It’s evening now, the lamp need to work to provide light. But she thinks she need to sleep for 1 hour so that she can be brighter to work better.During the sleep, she dreams a lot, suddenly the alarm clock rings, she wakes up and realize all the dreams be gone, and it’s time to work. But she fall asleep very quick when she works, and dream again and again.




On Teapots

I don’t remember how I was formed, only that it was hot, that it was dark. I’m lifted from darkness by calloused hands and see that there are many like me.We’re placed together; and we wait.

Steadily each of us disappears, wrapped gently in white paper and packed in a box. I don’t know where they go, but they rarely get returned.

Eventually I go into that same box and back into the dark.

When I’m lifted free it’s by a different set of hands in a completely new place. Is this where all of us go? I don’t see them…

I’m placed on a high shelf, surrounded by those like me. But this time we’re all also very different. And once again we sit together and we wait. But now no one ever goes in a box, goes away. We’re pulled down one at a time and again it is hot. We discover what it is to make tea.

You need fresh mint, ginger, turmeric, lemons, honey…

And there is laughter! Often all the voices sound the same but I’ve learned that they’re all actually very different. Their laughs are different.

And now there’s a new voice.

A tiny one – high and joyous.


We watch the destruction from up high and appreciate our place just a little bit more.

His is also the same, but just a little bit different.


Things that you don’t know

I have two story about clocks the first one is ‘Things that you don’t know’ second one is’Clock lovers’.

1.’Things that you don’t know ‘-Story :

Mr C lives in a clock shop, there are thousands members in their family. Everyday, they move regularly as they are behaving like normal clocks. Mr C hates that, he wanders why clocks should always go forward, and he believes he should have freedom and he can move however he wants. But, when the owner see someone move in a abnormal way, he will take them off wall and fixes them like doing a serious surgery for them. So Mr C only move wildly and freely when no one is watching, and more and more clocks think this is a good idea…..



I bought two clocks,and I spent a lot time to understand the mechanism of the clocks.

For my project I want to control the movement of the clock , but it is very complicated to make a new mechanism for special movement for my project, so I try to find a way to control the existing mechanism of the clocks. After knowing how the gears work together I found I could only control one gear and make the clock works.


I used a 360 degree servo to connected to the small gear that control the second hand of the clock and mount the servo in the back of the clock.

Webcam is used as a sensor in my project, when people’s faces comes in the camera it will recognized people is watching the clock, the clock will move backwards.

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 11.22.57 PM.png

2.’Clock lovers'(my original story )-story:


Mr Second, Ms Minute and Mr Hour live in an old-design clock from a clock shop. Due to the antique appearance of their house, they are still not been purchased after three years passed. Meanwhile, more and more modern new clocks are coming in stock.

Mr Hour is a mature and charming man. He is well behaved and wouldn’t speak a word in most of the time. Ms Minute has a great body since she is always active with good daily schedule. Mr Second is the youngest among them, he is lengthy and tall, his characteristic of exciting and energetic always makes him full of spirits and running around the room.

Ms Minute always chats with Mr Second. One day, she told Mr Second that She falls in love with Mr Hour and wished him to give her more chance to encounter Mr Hour. Mr Second was being extremely warm and helpful, he tried his best to let her to see him faster by walking super fast. The owner of the clock shop soon noticed that this old clock seems to have some problem, since it is always ahead of the others in time. But the owner was reluctant to take it off the shelve and still kept them, because the clock has been here for so long. As he is running, Mr Second is also eager for a relationship.

The owner bought in lots of new clocks, many beautiful clocks were stocked around Mr Second’s old clock. Mr Second saw this lengthy tall girl next door and he started falling into love with her. He tried to slow down himself to the normal time as Mr Hour and Ms Minute were married and they are supportive to Mr Second’s relationship. Mr Second struggled to meet the girl, and he figured out that the distance between them two is the closest when he is at a quarter and she is at a quarter and half, since she lives on his left. Mr Second followed what he found out and adjusted his speed in order to meet her. But he wants more than just one encounter per minute, but forever…

In this story, I use a thread tied the second hands of the two clocks together. This is what Mr second’s dream- he can stay with his lover forever, and by this way they also can make the time stop. Love makes the time stop, but also makes them stop move forward. I try to use this project to present or describe the relationship between people.

Forgotten hardware / zombie book

Computers do what you tell them to do, except when they can’t.

This week I hacked at my “broken computer” to have it babble out sounds of it’s working life past. The goal was to create a seemly dead laptop that eagerly spits out fragments of media when it senses human interaction. To achieve this I put an accelerometer and Arduino inside of the hollowed out laptop and had the data feed into MAX MSP where it was basically smoothed and used to trigger different sounds from a video game called Railroad Tycoon 3. As the user interacts with the laptop it gets more and more excited to fulfill the role it once had (as a working video game machine). Video coming soon.

I tried for a long time to get bluetooth serial communication working and ran into a series of difficulties. I’m going to try this again when I have time but I think it had to do with a bad Arduino Mega I was using. I also tried to get the audio to come from inside the computer but could not get my computer to pair with the speaker. The combination of these two issues was especially disappointing because having both a wire and external sound make it difficult to realize this project as a junked laptop in a pile of other e-waste; which was the original idea.

Ultimately I think it works as a proof of concept but the feeling of shaking out old memories isn’t really there as much as I would have liked. Especially with the wire sticking out and the external sound, the interaction feels forced and not as serendipitous as I was going for.

Here’s a look at the max patch I was working with:

A large portion of this is from an Arduino serial handshaking example that worked out really nicely for my purposes.

Forgotten hardware from Jesse Horwitz on Vimeo.

Lastly, here is the backstory I made for this object as I continue to work on it:

Like most dead things the Zombiebook pro didn’t start out that way. In short glimpses Zom can even recall those early days when it was the most important and beautiful device in the room. In Zom’s youth, children would come to it in times of great stress and joy, tomes of knowledge would blaze across its screen, hours would be spent simulating virtual train systems and endless dialogues with friends and neighbors yielded a constant stream of new and exciting media. In these days, Zom’s bond with the children seemed unbreakable, vital, and even masterful. But, in computing, nothing lasts forever.

It wasn’t that Zom got old so much as the world left it behind. Zom refused to admit it. Zom knew it had some dust where there wasn’t dust before but it could still find its Netflix, it could still run the ol’ Railroad Tycoon. Yet the children wanted more. More spinning triangles when a firefight breaks out in a video game, more windows open when browsing the internet and more speed – everywhere.

What really precipitated it’s fall from grace was its instance on keeping up with the younger, faster and thinner machines that suddenly dominated all the social hot spots… and got all the children’s attention. Newer machines could talk to iPhones, sip data in the 5ghz club and run a dizzying number of floating point calcualtions without breaking a sweat. The first unfortunate mistake Zom made in it’s illustrious downfall was having a used solid state drive installed. Zom thought this would be a simple procedure, it even knew machines its own age who’d been born with these kinds of drives. However this would turn out to be the beginning of the end, a treadmill of failing upgrades, that would lead Zom to where it is today.

The procedure was tricky and maybe a bit strange but all the right hardware was there. Zom planed to have its CD drive removed and a solid state drive installed in its place. The surgery began and everything seemed to go well until the final phase. As Zom was transfereing it’s programs, games and files to the new drive a terrible data accident occurred. The operating system was mangled and a clean install was required. In the end most of the memories returned but in a corrupted and unfamiliar way. Applications that used to be common and comforting now caused freezing and kernel panic, the children became frustrated.

Zom thought a more conventional RAM upgrade might bring it back from this hectic twilight. This procedure went relatively well but somehow only hastened Zom’s decline. The extra heat generated made Zom run its fans at full blast which made it seem like Zom was even older despite the slight gains in performance. Then, battery life suffered. All the while, crashing, freezing and slowdowns became more common and as usual the children wanted more. To Zoms credit it survived these stresses and demands for a whole year – and then one day it just couldn’t get out of sleep mode. Zom still had a charge but the children couldn’t see it and began to hate Zom’s feeble and failing attempts. Zom when under the screwdriver once more but the surgeon was careless with the unloved machine and nicked a dataline. This was the end… or was it?

Today Zom lies in a heap of other dead components and machines, but still lives on yearning for the children to come back. Zom has few functioning components but because of its experience in life with upgrades, failures and reboots Zom makes due with the hardware it has. When Zom feels the presence of the children it calls out – hoping that they will remember the train simulations, the old torrent files, or the papers they had written with it’s help. Not much is intelligible, and it often frightens those who observe this desperation. However I can’t help but respect this fallen giant, unyielding in the face of obsolescence and determined to make use of what little it has for as long as it can.

The machine is dead, long live the machine!



Gym Bunny

Within gay culture the gym has become a sacred site.  It has become a holy ground of immense tension for men and their potential partners. The gym is the place where one goes to build themselves into a commodity to be devoured.  Men go to the gym to prepare for courtship; however, more importantly, it is also the site of many courtship rituals.  Within the intoxicating air filled with testosterone, sweat, and body odor, glances are exchanged, compliments are given, and flirtation is provoked.  It is the place of vulnerability, empowerment, potential, and release for those whom for most of their lives have been unable to explore their sexuality.  To see and to bee seen: the atmosphere of the gym is not unlike the atmosphere of a bar or club.
A dumbbell atop of a fur pedestal.  The dumbbell itself, slowly inching along the pedestal surface moving from one end to the other to complete its necessary set of reps.   It grunts and releases its moans of exhaustion with every effort.  What is the dumbbell alone?  What is the dumbbell now as it is prostrated across fur?  What type of conversation is created between these two subjects?  The dumbbell has now become a sexual object and we are the voyeur participating in its seduction.

Flora is a good listener

Emotional object story about Flora

Who is Flora?

She’s an artificial flower. But she has feelings, and it’s not artificial. 

What’s her story?

As you can see, Flora is an ordinary unnoticed artificial flower. Even if people feel the decoration of the room is nice, she does not get the credits. No one likes her, and there were even rumors that she’s totally fake, just because she’s not as fresh and smelling good as the ‘fresh’ flowers.

Yet she has a beautiful soul that no one knows. She’s patient and devoted, she would never leave you after met you for only a few days -like the fresh flowers do. She’d always be there accompany you. And the best thing is: she’s a good listener! If you’re busy, she would be very thoughtful and be quiet. But if you are talking to her, she would always nod, to let you know that she is listening and she’s here supporting your ideas. ‘Flora, do you think I can get a summer internship?’ ‘Is my idea good enough?’ ‘Can I manage this?’ Trust me, you’ll get the appreciation and understand from her, always. Because she knows how it feels. Being understand, being listened to, being appreciated, these are all Flora desired for her life.