“Mobile Mobile” is not your typical clap-on-clap-off kind of lamp-instead it’s made out of dangling, jingling cell phones. Unfortunately, this project took on some serious kitschy-ness when it was used to play Christmas jingles in a company lobby, but aside from that, it’s quite creative. I don’t mean to put down this project but Christmas jingles really are wasted on this cool project if you ask me! I’d way rather see it playing some kind of traveling video, or allow the audience to interact with phone sounds using something other than traditional christmas tunes. To quote Stephen Hawking,
”It does seem slightly pitiful that so many of our great scientific and engineering minds are being wasted on creating fine new ways to pay for your shampoo with your iPhone, rather than on creating machines that can swiftly and safely transport humans to occupy the Planet Yog.” (Cnet)
Interesting to think about. While these projects are cool as is, it’s okay to be critical–that’s how bigger, better things come about, right? In another vein, something I also like here is the idea of using recycled technology as art. Those phones are new-looking but still obsolete for the company that replaced them. Watch the video below and then scroll down to read about how it was made.
What I found most impressive was the programming that went into the project. Here’s what artist James Theophane has to say about it:
“About The Technology We Used – by Oliver DewdneyThe plan was to make 50 mobiles to each play a different note of a Christmas carol, and flash in time. We set up a test mobile phone – an HTC Touch – to connect to a wifi access point whilst being powered by a charger.
We ‘ping’ed the IP address of the phone for two days to verify that it would remain contactable. The phone did get a tiny bit warm, but it worked. We noticed that the ping time changed significantly between different power modes on the wifi of the mobile – from 100ms down to about 2ms on ‘performance’.
The plan was to write a small program that ran on the phone that understood a small set on instructions and have a controller running on a PC sending the commands. The basic list of commands was: light on/off, change colour ‘wash’ and beep.
The first challenge was turning the backlight off – WinMobile is a multitasking OS running WindowsCE as the kernel. The power management subsystem allows you to suggest power settings, but the OS takes into account all the running programs needs.
Turning the backlight fully off proved problematic in the project timescales (a matter of days). Next was beeping. The PC has always had a speaker that could beep – it was connected to the chip that controlled the keyboard – so has had a corresponding function e.g. in windows the MessageBeep function.
WindowsCE was designed for a range of platforms and embedded controllers and it looks like beep was not a core function. Luckily the Microsoft developers included some sample code on how to implement a MIDI sound system expecting hardware manufacturers to license third party full musical instrument libraries. It looks like the manufacturers kept with the simple sine wave sample code implementation. This was good enough for our mobile phone beeping musical rendition.
The program on the phone was written in Microsoft .Net C# and consisted of two parts: one registering with a web service – logging the fact that it was still alive and its current IP address, and two a UDP listener – listening for commands from the controller over the network.
The controller was written to read the midi file of the Carol and send the individual notes to individual phones at the right time. Using UDP instead of TCP and the ‘performance’ setting on the phone meant that the commands arrived promptly on the phones.”