À Table!

11Sep10

My husband and I love to drink a variety of delicious wines. We usually cook dinner at home and drink wine with most meals, and we enjoy entertaining guests at our house. When we sit down to eat a meal together, the wine is the last item we place on the table, signifying that it’s “time to eat!” In French, we say “à table!” This is one of my favorite times in the day; I always look forward to celebrating good food and drink with my loved ones.

When we were asked to get creative in my Physical Computing class in order to show our mastery of the lab exercise focusing on digital input and output using a breadboard and microcontroller, I decided to build a physical interface for representing this moment when the wine is brought to the table and it’s “time to eat.”

À Table!

I made my own “switch” using a wine bottle and trivet. When the wine bottle is placed on the trivet, a yellow LED turns on, signaling that everything is ready and it’s “time to eat!” When the wine bottle is not placed on the trivet, a red LED turns on, indicating that the meal is not ready to eat yet.
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I built this simple switch by wiring two points of contact using aluminum foil, wires, and electrical tape.

Foil points of contact

I lined the bottom of the wine bottle and inside of the trivet with foil and connected wires from the foil surfaces to the breadboard.

Breadboard and Arduino

Then, I programmed the Arduino microcontroller to turn on the LEDs, depending on the on/off input it received from the contact between the wine bottle and the trivet.

Voilà!

One thing I’d like to do to make this device even more useful is to connect audio to this interactive device, so that when the yellow turns on, my recorded voice would say “à table!”. I could even set it up so that it would cycle through different recorded sayings, perhaps one from my husband and one from me.

When I shared my project with my Physical Computing class, I received a lot of positive feedback and good suggestions for how to improve upon the concept. Someone suggested that I use a pressure sensor to detect the volume of liquid remaining in the bottle, and make an output (audio or light) to indicate when it is time to get a new bottle. Tom Igoe suggested that I hook up electric candles, instead of little LEDs, to turn on when the bottle is placed on the trivet. Great ideas!


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