Wrecklab Makelab

Wrecklab / Makelab is project which is an effort to create more awareness about how the products we use every day work, to inspire creativity, and to have fun taking stuff apart! During Wrecklab we take things apart with any tool available and investigate the core of the gadgets of yesteryear. Makelab is the opposite, during this session participants are encouraged is to put the destroyed objects back together again in a novel way. The idea is to empower people with the knowledge of everyday objects they may mistake for magic. Cell phone: magic. Refrigerators… magic. Printers: sorcery!! Having the knowledge of the inner workings of their thingsgives people more ownership over the stuff they buy. If your watch breaks, you’re not out all the parts, you can use that stuff! Also there’s the potential for fixing it yourself.

I hope that more happens, that through this destructive and constructive play people find themselves inspired to experiment, to realize that science is done by people solving their own problems. That a playful experimenting mind is a fun thing to cultivate, and who knows what fun hacks we’ll develop along the way!


March 2010
Working in conjunction with Right Brain Fabrication we built an animatronic robot face to interact with Kosmo’s customers. Two Peggy‘s act as Kosmobot’s eyes while four servo’s manipulate his aluminum eyebrows. This gives him some serious flexibility and a good range of expressions. We also had a script running so the operator could type in the words Kosmo would say and it would use the TTS from the Mac Kosmo lives in to speak.  Right Brain Fabrication built the mechanics and I did the electronics interfacing and programming.

Kosmo Robot

This video by Bob Stack from Right Brain Fabrication shows some of the available expressions Kosmo has:

If you’re ever in Ann arbor and you want to order food from a robot get yourself to Kosmo and order some Bi Bim Bop!

Decoder Business Card

A laser cut version of the decoder business card
A laser cut version of the decoder business card

By using a a QR code as an encoder and decoder we can have a secret message card that can be translated using digital decoders and analog ones as well!

Having a good business card can help you maintain contacts, promote yourself and your business, and make friends. By creating a personal business card that involves the recipient actively folding, manipulating and translating your card will make them more likely to remember you and share your card.

Decoded image

Thinking back to the old school decoder rings and my fascination with secret messages I thought I could make an interesting business card that could not only tell a story, but give useful information on how to contact me. I did this first using just a block out grid stencil, and secondly with a QR code acting as the grid. I posted the project on instructables, you can check it out there, view the embedded version, or download the PDF below.

A decoder business card project I just posted to instructables.

Decoder Buisness Card – QR Coded Secret Message

Glowffiti – Invisible UV Glowing Graffiti Spray Paint

Invisible Glowing Graffiti
Invisible Glowing Graffiti with two colors: Red and Green

This is some invisible UV glowing paint I made recently. It’s a clear paint that glows brightly under UV lights. There are many reasons I can think of to  can be used to add invisible messages without obscuring preexisting signs or creating visual clutter. Also some fun uses could be to create city wide treasure hunts or secrete messages. The ink comes in two versions a plastic based version that you can screen print and a polyurethane version that you can spray. Here’s what the wall looks like during the day:

Invisible Glowing Wall During The Day
Wall with two skull tags imitating wall without tags

At night here’s a picture of it glowing with a UV LED flashlight:

Glowing at night with LED flashlight
You can see it using UV LED's as well!

The applications are endless, what would you do with this type of ink?

Laser Cutter and Plotter Program

DIY Laser cut machine gun
So while developing my $50 laser cutter I needed a program that would help me turn vector designs into a series of steps that could run the motors. These steps are human readable, here’s an example text file: Flutter File. If you were to take 0 as north, and 1 as north east, 2 as east and so on and walked this document out you would have drawn this charming man:

Pope John Paul II.

The program can be found here and is pretty neat, just upload a EPS file and it will turn it into a text file of steps to take like this:

The C program I wrote to run a set of stepper motors using this type of text file can be found here.

For a full description on how I made a laser cutter and how to make one for yourself can be found at my instructable.

There have been a few people who have made the laser cutter, but none as beautifully as Samuel Ward’s:


Actively Articulating Awesome in Ann Arbor

My Biometric Data
My Biometric Data

There is a lot going on. Let me show you it. These are a few of the projects I’m working on RIGHT NOW!

WreckLab / MakeLab is a class I’m proposing around town in which people take apart the things that mystify them, learn how the component parts work, then put them back together in novel ways. The idea is to empower people with the knowledge of everyday objects they mistake for magic. Cell phone: magic. Refrigerators… majick. Printers: sorcery!! Having the knowledge of the inner workings of their thingsgives people more ownership over the stuff they buy. If your watch breaks, you’re not out all the parts, you can use that stuff! Also there’s the potential for fixing it yourself.

There is the hope that more happens, that through this destructive and constructive play people find themselves inspired to experiment, to realize that science is done by people solving their own problems. That a playful experimenting mind is a fun thing to cultivate, and who knows what fun hacks we’ll develop along the way!

Radioactive Boardgame Free will and chance, these are things I’ve been thinking about ever since I was introduced to the concept of reductionism. I’d really like to see more large scale things controlled by quantum and subatomic weirdness. It is disappointing to know that something mysterious exists that has the potential to give life true randomness and in my opinion adds a fair serving of intrigue then realize that as it aggregates all the fun random effects blend out to your last choice at Wendy’s (you got something from the dollar menu). So I’ve built a scintillator using Zinc Sulfide and Americium and in absolute darkness I can see subatomic particles exploding off and shooting out individual photons. It looks like static (coooooool). What I would like to do with this is develop a way to amplify it singularly to make decisions for a board game. No idea what the game will be, maybe I’ll make it a SMS based application where you ask it a question and it replies with an answer selected by ATOMS.

Biometric data link with my online and audio inputs. I’d like to see if there’s a correlation between my blood pressure and the websites I visit regularly.

It’s now late and I have a letter to write. So I’ll just name a few others: UV graffiti, RGB UV plastic based inks, refillable spray paint cans (found some), laser projector, The Two Hands Project, and starting a hackerspace in Ann Arbor called All Hands Active.

Also, I’m working at a preschool.
-Bilal Ghalib

Finger Speakers


Finger speakers
Finger speakers


Considering new ways to send tactile data to my skin I’ve been working on gloves with speaker coils embedded in them. As a test I wound and glued speaker coils to my fingers and was able to use them placed against a magnet to feel some pretty good vibration. This is awesome, but the only problem is that they seem to require LOTS of amplification to give me a good sensation. I think adding an air cavity with approximately 1mm of open air between the diaphram and my finger will give me a really good buzzing sensation and will try that out during the next build night at AHA. Can’t wait to figure out a way to make tiny tactile sensors that we can build in a massive array!

Two Hands Project Shirt

THP shirt in the dark

I’ve finally bought my ticket and a good group has formed around the project. Very rapidly things are coming together and it had to, there’s 9 days. I’ll be printing shirts for this project as a way to raise funds and to have something to offer. I really should make stickers and cards, I wonder if there’s a good place to do that that anyone knows.

Here’s the first prototype shirt for the Two Hands Project:

THP shirt under UV light
THP shirt under UV light

I think that a bit more formulation and my UV ink will be perfected, I think I want to use an Acetone based dye, but my concern is that the only ones I can get in that formulation that are sunlight stable fluoresce under 385/375 and that’s a bit low for general public UV light sources.

In anycase, expect invisible inks in the future. Tomorrow will be a glowey day.

Two Hands Project Update

Two Hands Project

Man! What a great response. I didn’t expect nearly such a profoundly positive experience after proposing The Two Hands Project but I guess that just means that it’s time has come. There’s still lots of work to do, and I’m just now going through the JetBlue iternary and I also still don’t have all the money I need to travel. But I’m still so pumped!

If you know of any spaces that I need to check out, or want to help out in any other way lemme know. We’re considering printing these shirts: SHIRTS!

Maker/Hackerspace Tour 2009 on JetBlue

www.twohandsproject.com is a Documentary on Maker/Hackerspaces that will be shot in a month during a whirlwind tour of as many USA spaces as possible on the JetBlue 600$ anywhere anytime ticket!

JetBlue is offering a 599$ ticket for a month of unlimited travel. We can hop around the entire country visiting spaces for 600$ and a few couches. This is a project waiting to happen. I’m also looking for any exciting film makers and funding, check www.twohandsproject.com for more info and to donate / be a part of this trip.



Chicago -> Boston -> NYC -> Ann Arbor Introductions

Billy Luigi and Mitch

It was such a treat to meet up with some old San Francisco friends today Mitch and Luigi.

We were able to talk a bit about the concept of a Hatchery (the name may be over used, but it’s so apt). And how it may help fund peoples ideas, I’m thinking some services that we can offer and some profit sharing models to encourage collaboration, and to stimulate work. I’m still mulling all these thoughts over and if you’d like to discuss what a hatchery can be, a hackerspace -geekery and +focus on entrepreneurship as a goal. But if you want to talk about this, projects in general, and DIY/Maker/Hacker culture you should come to the Ann Arbor Chocolate Cafe in Ann Arbor this friday!

Ann Arbor Introductions!

Where: 330 S Main St Ann Arbor, MI
When: 7:22 PM
Why: Talk, get excited, have chocolate
Bring: An extra dollar bill

-Bilal Ghalib

How to Get a Short SMS Digit

US Short Code Association is the way Twitter is able to have such a short number for their texting service. It’s not free, it costs approximately $1,000 dollars a month, but if you have a good project that needs a quick texting service with a short number, register now. For me the word MODATI still is available… Hmmm

I’m still considering my options concerning interactivity and activism in relationship to business and exciting people. I want to make a interactive online/offline game that includes peoples environments including the things they’re wearing. I think I might try to set up a SMTP server to respond to text messages or picture messages… If anyone can give me some pointers on how to automate the translation of a picture text message, that’d be so sweet. Thank you all, and to all a good night!

Touch Sight – using skin as a video display

Haptic Display V 2.2

Ahoi! I’ve been working on this project for some while now and I thought it was about time for an update. The tactile sensory substitution display has changed greatly since the last iteration, mostly in terms of electronics, currently it’s running at 10×10 pixels with a much faster refresh rate than the previous iteration. Previously I had it running a face detection program to isolate faces and present them to the wearer on their back, giving people additional information about their environments, here’s a video of me using the old haptic display:

The new electronics uses shift registers to load up chars which describe the video information, this makes it easier to send the data in streams and allows for a faster refresh, here’s a short clip showing the shift registers and the new electronics:

Glowtubbing – Glow in the dark hot tub

tEp is where I spend lots of my time and is filled with all sorts of magicians, mathematicians, musicians and makers. Recently during a rooftop lemonade party we set up a hot tub and filled with water at first, later I remembered I had some left over UV dye in the car, the colorful carnage that follows should not be replicated unless you fully understand the hazards:

New Inks and Designs

At Modati Clothing we’ve been experimenting with new inks and techniques including:

  1. Photochromatic
  2. Thermochromatic
  3. Fluorescent
  4. Phosphorescent
  5. Hand Dying Fabrics

All these inks combined with fresh talent Ala Sadie Scheffer and what do you have? A whole new series of shirts rolling out, you can check out our new website at Modati.com. I’m really excited about the interactivity of our new inventory. Products like the thermochromatic potholders that change to indicate their states (they catch fire when they get hot) and the mood shirt, which appears to change moods depending on if it’s bright and sunny out, or dark and scary.

It’s interesting to see how important design is to us, if you consider the fact that you are simply an aggregate of sensory inputs through time, every object you encounter becomes a part of you. So let’s keep making beautiful things, so like the girl, we can keep a bright sky above and smiles on our faces.


Spy Candy – Hearing through your mouth – bluetooth bone conduction mold making

A test to see if tooth tunes will vibrate through Shape Lock
A test to see if tooth tunes will vibrate through Shape Lock

Bluetooth headsets are so tiny now. I was looking at one the other day and was thinking something like: “I’d eat that”. Now to follow through. What if we could put a retainer on that contained a vibrating element (like the one in tooth tunes) and a bluetooth headset put on auto pick up. We could automatically hear conversations in our heads. Neat spy gear I think, really hard core mexican gangs can replace a few teeth with this thing so that there’s no speech impediments.

So far I’ve made a plastic cast of my mouth (Shape Lock is a good acoustic conductor) and taken apart a tooth tunes toothbrush getting to the vibrating element. To make the Mouth Cast, I initially was going to use some alginate, but after finding a bag of Shape Lock all I had to do was melt it in a pot of boiling water, pull it out while it was still soft and shove it in my mouth (video coming soon). Simple enough, It made a very articulated and form fitted mold of my mouth. This along with the vibrating element means all we need to find a way to run it from bluetooth audio, might need to cram an audio amp in there too. Seems like it’ll be quite a mouthful of sound, tasty!

Organic Electronics – A sensual digital world?

So I’m interested in coming up with organic ways to display and interact with digital data. So rather than having the harsh click-track rhythm of a drum machine, what if we had some true randomness in the timing? My idea is to make varying sized holes in a tube filled with water to let water drip at different times. These drops will land on a variety of peizo sensors and then will act like a drum machine. Perhaps rather than holes we can use old camera lens apertures?

Another place to add some randomness is in visual information. We could have a sheet of thermochromatic ink laying on top of a multiplexed grid of peltier tabs that could then act like a slowly refreshed image display. I think that this would give us fuzzy boundries, similar to a brush stroke, or watercolors spreading on a page. Perhaps even at a high resolution, these effects would add a softer edge to our digital images, making photographs something we could look up closely at without seeing the harshness of our digital compression strategies, no more pixels. Yay. I’ll let you all know how this goes. I’m trying to see if it’s worth trying to make my own semiconductive materials to make this display, or if  I should just use a prefabricated pelteir tab at a chunky resolution.

Anyhow, that’s whats up.


Controlling video games with your hands

howflyLast semester for my 3D game programming class I was thinking about what I could do to continue my investigation on alternative forms of game play and I was thinking that it would be really neat to interact with a flying game naturally. To this day I stick my hands out the windows and feel the power of the wind rushing by. I remember pretending my hand was an airplane as my dad would drive down the highway.

Using that intuitive motion for control my partner Vamsi and I designed a video game that uses a 3 axis accelerometer and a serial interface to communicate to the Torque engine and made a game you controlled by moving your hand. All the code is found here. The Design Document describing the game play is found here.

Face Controlled Game – Escape From Tibet


Escape From Tibet (EFROT) was a 2d game designed with XNA that utilized an interesting method for control. The assignment was to create a 2D game, and I thought back to some of my early memories of fun games that I used to play in two dimensions. One that I remembered was Ski Free! Man, what a great game! While trying to reformulate this old classic for our new machines I was considering that human computer interaction has been the same for decades, I thought we would try to manipulate our game differently. I thought of a way we could use the webcams that are on all of our computers to make this game more accessible to all, so you move your player by simply moving your head to one side or another, and by doing some face detection and determining which quadrant of the screen you were in we could then move the skier as he travels down the slope. My partner Aaron Curly made a wrapper for openCV so we could use it in C# and helped me write this fun game. All the code we wrote is available here.