Anil’s Crop Circles, Exploring Physical Media, Ratan and Matt’s Brown Bag

Anil Mohan’s MS Final Project

Graduation is coming soon for Anil Mohan.  In December he will complete his MS degree in Telecommunications.  For his final project, he is developing an iPhone game application called Crop Circles.  The challenge in this game is to keep a virtual garden healthy and productive – through healthy eating.  Inspired by a previous application he designed for a SLIS course, Crop Circles allows the user to track his or her diet and receive information about the nutrients he or she has consumed, which then feeds back into a game environment.  Anil wants his application to change what we eat by changing the way we eat.

The first generation of the application was created in collaboration with students from Informatics and was intended to help patients with diabetes to eat better.  Now, Anil is expanding the application into a full concept game.  He believes that if people treat his design as a game, they will be more drawn in to the experience.  As they become more engrossed in the process, their eating habits may change.

When asked about how he got started, Anil said that he wanted to develop a concept for the mobile space. Based on current and future market projections, he believed this is where the next paradigm of gameplay would be.  Now, his development goal is to have the project completed by the end of the month.  Under the initial guidance of Professor Andrew Bucksbarg and through feedback from his committee, Anil hopes this project will become the statement piece in his portfolio.  After that?  He plans to enter the media industry in the mobile game space, where he can work from almost anywhere.

As an international student, Anil faces more challenges than most.  His current visa restrictions allow him three months to find a job after graduation.  In addition, he has one year to get a work visa approved by the government and supported by his employer.  Ultimately, Anil hopes to spend more time here in the States and eventually head back home to his native India.

To see more of Anil’s work, go here:

Andrew Bucksbarg’s Class Explores Physical Media

How do you create interactivity though physical media? Professor Andrew Bucksbarg’s Physical Media class tackled this


Professor Andrew Bucksbarg tests a student prototype that uses sound, space, and lights.


question over the course of this semester, working to create prototypes of interactive projects. The class, which started out with brainstorming sessions, gave students the opportunity to test out electronics and computer coding that was unfamiliar to some. Grad student Brendan Wood explains that the brainstorming sessions were essential to creative thinking, saying, “We were encouraged to dream big and not think about the electronic or code limitations that might happen.”

After proposing prototype ideas to the class, each student developed his/her project over the course of the semester, and the hard work culminated in presentations to the rest of the group on Thursday. The class is composed of students from Informatics, Fine Arts, and Telecommunications. Each of the three


MS student Brendan Wood tests the proximity sensors on his Sonic Dance Interface.


telecommunications students in the class produced unique prototypes: an interactive bench, an electronic heart that mimics the heartbeat of whoever holds it, and a sound and dance interface experience.

Brendan, who designed the Sonic Dance Interface (think of it as a Dance Dance Revolution mat on a tennis ball springboard but even better), spent his time outside of class learning how to use open source software to build the digital instruments that respond to the spatial location of the user on the springboard. The user gets to balance weights in different directions, surfing back and forth to create a customized sound experience based on the motion.


Grad student Dan Schiffman exhibits his interactive bench with weight-responsive lights.


First year MS student Dan Schiffman designed an interactive bench with lights responsive to the weight of people sitting on it. “It explores kinetic and still movement,” Dan says, “and you can see weight through the intensity of the lights.”


MS student Jagadish Anavankot demonstrates his glowing, mimicking heart prototype.


Fellow Telecom grad student Jagadish Anavankot presented a prototype of a model heart that mimics actual heartbeat rhythms through a transmitter worn by the user. The heart vibrates in a (sometimes creepily!) realistic manner, and the heart glows in beat as well.

The unique organization of this class allowed the students to explore interdisciplinary methods of conveying interactivity. “Electronics, human computer interaction, programming, sound engineering, and visual prototyping all are involved in equal parts in order to deliver the final prototypes we work on,” says Brendan.

If you’re interested in trying out one of Andrew Bucksbarg’s classes for yourself, check out his Spring 2011 course: T540: Art, Entertainment, and Information – ROBOTS, CYBORGS, GLITCHES and the MULTISENSORIAL. For more information, you can contact Andrew at

Brown Bag Presentations by Ratan Suri and Matt Kobach

This week’s brown bag presentation featured Ratan Suri and Matt Kobach, PhD students in the department.

Ratan Suri: Glancing at the past through the window of Space: Understanding the influence of using Spatial and location based technologies in Historical research from a socio-technical perspective.

Abstract: Traditionally, history and geography, though once considered as sister disciplines, have long diverged as two separate fields. Though historical events have been profoundly geographic in nature, historians seldom factor geographical aspects into historical reasoning, albeit with few exceptions, such as military history and environmental history. However the last decade or so has seen a spatial turn in humanities with historians factoring geographical aspects into historical reasoning. Particularly historians’ use of spatial analytical tools such as Google Earth, Arc GIS in historical analysis has thrown new light on a number of important historical events.  More importantly, it has also been transforming the research practices that have typically characterized historical research and historical reasoning. My dissertation focuses on understanding how the use of spatial and other location based technologies are influencing historical research practices. I draw upon theoretical frameworks from information science, to analyze the influence of spatial technologies on the changing nature of historical research and the field of history in general.

Matt Kobach: An Evolutionary Psychological Perspective Toward Mass Communication Process, Effects, and Theory

Abstract: In this talk I will explore media effects, processes, and theory through the lens of evolutionary psychology. It is my contention that mass communication theory has been stuck in a paradigm that has focused too narrowly on learning, and has not yet fruitfully explored what our human biological makeup brings to the table. Evolutionary psychology suggests that human behavior is the result of adapted psychological mechanisms that were designed in an era that humans no longer live in, and that these mechanisms work in conjunction with environmental input that manifests into behavior. The human mind comes equipped with a wide array of cognitive mechanisms that developed over deep time as a result of both survival and reproductive needs. To understand the mind, we must understand what problems these cognitive mechanisms were created to solve. Further, we must explore how these innate mechanisms work in conjunction with our current environment (in this case, the media). I will discuss the core tenets of evolutionary psychology, Reeves and Nass’ (1996) Media Equation, how to apply evolutionary psychology to media processes/effects/theory, and discuss hypotheses that I have developed under an evolutionary psychological paradigm. It is my hope that the talk will end with a discourse about my current hypotheses and hopefully spur a handful of new related ideas.

See the highlights here:

Random Photo of the Week


PhD student Matt Falk showing off his lucky purple FC Telecom socks on the way to his Comps Defense.



Nicky Lewis: Anil’s Crop Circles, Brown Bag

Katie Birge: Exploring Physical Media, Random Photo of the Week

Special Thanks

Norbert Herber:  For identifying a photo opportunity and facilitating Random Photo of the Week.

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