Screen Reader

I’m interested in exploring ways in which we can physically move through text. This is something that is inherently a part of reading a book or newspaper – there is a tactile sense of how much you have consumed and how much you have left to go. But this is something that we get further away from as we do more and more of our reading on the screen. I started thinking about preexisting ways that we move through or break apart text for different purposes, whether it be text scrolling on teleprompters, lines broken apart on cue cards, or words that are physically assembled into magnetic poetry.

I’ve also been thinking about ways to liberate the screen – to make into something we can touch and hold and make it responsive to it’s own physical environment. There are lots of examples of explorations being done in this direction, like the Interactive Digital Wall by Onomy Labs, but I wanted to embark on some explorations of my own.

In considering how to combine these two interests of physically exploding text and liberating the screen, I considered possible actions that could be used to reveal text with a portable screen including scrolling, attaching, throwing, and banging. For this project I settled on attaching and made a prototype of what I call the “Screen Reader”.

The Screen Reader is a setup that allows you to physically move through text in a linear fashion by attaching a small screen to specified locations on a wall. When the screen is attached to the wall, it shows a word. When you move it to a different location, it shoes a different word. When you reach the end of the line and then return to the beginning, you will reveal a new line of text. The idea is that you can read and reveal a text one word at a time.

The back of the screen is covered with the hook side of conductive velcro. On what would be the wall are patches of loop side conductive velcro. When the screen is attached to any of the available locations, the velcro on the screen creates a connection between the two small pieces of velcro on the wall and in effect closes a switch. Each location where the screen can be attached is a switch. All switch information is monitored by an Arduino which then sends information serially to Processing as to which switch is activated. According to which switch is activated and in what order the switches are activated, the Processing code determines which word to display. For this situation I hooked up the LCD to my computer via the s-video out and showed the applet on the secondary display.

A video of what I showed in class can be seen here:

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I was pretty satisfied with the result. It’s a rough prototype, but I enjoyed turning the act of reading into a more physically engaging activity. I started very simple approach but have ideas that I plan to pursue as to how I could expand this into a larger, more dynamic system, both in terms of content and physical interface.

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