Team Varpex: Group Brainstorming

Group Mem­bers: Sam Payne, Pre­rna Ramachan­dra, Dil­lon Reis­man, Abbi Ward

Ideas for a Better World:

1. A device that can notify you when people open/close doors or enter/leave your room so you can track room occupancy remotely, for the benefit who cohabitate with someone and want privacy.
2. Track the number of people in dining halls with sensors at the door – trigger a movie or TV show or music when enough people have entered the room or when they have exited.
3. Put sensors on chairs so that dining hall table layout can be tracked to determine where there are free seats.
4. Make a device which tracks when people start to fall asleep by sensing when their head slouches and wake them up using a vibration or light
5. (Sketched by Sam) A jacket to help posture – senses when someone is slouching and gives them a vibration or stimulus to correct posture.
6. A set of utensils that give feedback when a user has brought food to their mouth too quickly (vibrate, retract head of utensil etc.)
7. When reading a book on the treadmill, a device that bobs the book up and down to match your head movement to make reading in motion easier.
8. Gloves that give feedback to adults (or children) learning how to type by offering feedback (vibration) when an adult types with the wrong finger, or incorrectly otherwise.
9. A ‘personal clipboard’ that a user wears so that the user has memory which can interact with the keyboard (metal contacts?) to quickly copy data onto the memory, which the user can then paste onto other computers.
10. A jacket which allows users to feel music using vibrations (helpful for the deaf, or people who want to feel the bass but want to avoid noise pollution).
11. Motorized robot which can create hand made soft serve ice cream cones – that way a person doesn’t have to do it (and it’s perfect every time!)
12. When ice cream is running low, people running the store don’t know – add a sensor to determine if ice cream in a container is low and a new bag of soft serve/container of ice cream must be retrieved so that not as much time is wasted.
13. Camera on glasses which can track eyelid movement and be controlled to take pictures hands free for people who want to take pictures while driving, rock or mountain climbing, doing other activities which do not leave their hands free to work a camera.
14. Train movements for walking after leg injury (give feedback on bad walking form) – can also be used for activities such as sports.
15. Glasses whose lenses go darker when bright flashes of light are detected to prevent seizures in epileptic patients.
16. Small modules which interact with each other for adolescent learning – simulating chemical reactions, abstract physics concepts such as force, etc.
17. Dynamic mood lighting based on frequencies in music – fast movement generates warm colors and slow music generates cool colors (hear the rainbow!), for people who are hearing impaired and can’t hear music.
18. Dogs need companionship – make a robotic trainer which is able to reward dogs but still provide remote interaction with owner, if dog is alone at home and owner is away.
19. Long distance communication with a dog via a robot that shows your face, has pre-programmed audio, a receptacle and thrower for a ball/biscuits – for people who leave dogs alone at home or with do sitters.
20. Play instruments remotely using flex sensors on your hands — elbow positions for trombone, finger positions for guitar/violin.
21. Use Kinect gestures to communicate and interact with a robot dog – for people who can’t own a real dog!
22. Detect when babies roll over in their cribs and sleep in wrong positions by using sensors in the crib.
23. Play frogger in real life! Speed sensors on body to warn you when crossing the street. Maybe for young children, or crossing mall highways which don’t have actual crosswalks.
24. Find your car in a parking garage and leads you to it using light or sound or some kind of directional compass.
25. Calorie counter of food, as a function of weight of plate at start of meal, that can notify you if you’re eating too much or that can be integrated with a mobile app to help you monitor your food consumption.
26. Embedded sensors in glasses so waiters know when to refill your drink
27. Sensors that warn students about backpacks that are too heavy.
28. Sensors that warn when music is too loud.
29. Backpack that senses when you are stressed and becomes a back massager
30. Put out signal to a room and figure out where you should put dampeners for the best acoustics.
31. Use detectors on tongue to talk with your mouth closed.
32. A system that gives you feedback about your speed of speech or time left during presentations.
33. Use dancing to produce music, use Kinect to match beat to dancing.
34. Correlate good dancing to good music- suit of body sensors that detect movement, evaluate dance performance, produce music based on ‘quality’ of dance.(Variation on 33)
35. Sensing for epileptic seizures to notify those around you that you are at a health risk (detect the early signs that a seizure may start).
36. Automatic nail filer that files nail to the perfect level.
37. Device that monitors your alchol consumption, such as by tracking your breath or rate of drinking, and tells you to slow down your drinking privately.
*38. Tune your trumpet in real time by attaching a device to your tuning slide.
39. Feedback for learning instrument

  • trombone
  • violin

40. Track body movement to create art – dancing can become digital/visual art. Could also be built for the handicapped to make art.
41. Convert gesture to text in real-time for better remote interaction. Possible applications include ASL or understanding exorcisms.
42. Tune brass and other sections remotely so the conductor can easily tune the entire band
43. Sustainability: reinforce sustainable habits with rewards – anything from a text message saying thank you  to something more advanced
44. Robotic thermostat for students who don’t have access to actual thermostat. (Mechanically turns the knob)
45. Something that warns you of bad behavior that will affect you in the long term

  • biting nails
  • picking your nose
  • keep your legs closed while sitting
  • grinding your teeth
  • snoring

46. An umbrella that responds to wind and tilts to give you the most coverage. It tells you which way to tilt using an array of LED’s.
– It could also light up and play music when it’s raining to cheer you up!

47. Use head rotation as a method for computer navigation for those who cannot use traditional methods of navigation
48. Use sensors for an interactive lifting trainer that will detect and correct your form and motivate you as the workout gets difficult.
49. Use the Kinect to watch where you are and only turn on lights in that direction.

  • Use for spotlights in theater
  • When you and your hot date are getting close, the lights dim


50. Create an iris scan for your entertainment system or computer so only authorized people can turn it on (parental control)
51. Make brushing your teeth easier for people who have limited range of arm motion. They can control with their hand where the brush goes using a map of the teeth they can hold in their lap.

52. A projector capable of projecting flat images onto surfaces which are not flat.

Final Project Chosen: Feeling your music

Problem Description and Context

Many people like to listen to their music at a high volume, not only because it is loud, but also because they can feel the lower frequencies. Many home theaters come with larger subwoofers that provide frequencies below hearable frequencies so that people can feel the effects of their movie. However, subwoofers of this kind are expensive, and playing music with loud bass tones can be irritating to neighbors. We wish to provide a solution to the problem of requiring high volume or expensive equipment to feel lower frequencies. This product would conveniently integrate with users’ listening habits. Solutions exist but are not widespread

Target User Group

Our target user group is people who want to feel low bass frequencies in dorms, apartments, or other locations which do not allow noise pollution. We are also targeting audiences which cannot afford expensive audio equipment – very often these are the same people who live in dorms and apartments. Specifically, our target audience would attend concerts which play for audiences who enjoy feeling the music. Electronic music festivals are especially attractive for those who like the feel music. These days, more electronic music genres such as Dubstep stress heavy basslines. To summarize in a few words: we are looking for people who live in apartments or dorms who do not have resources to purchase expensive sound equipment who like to listen to music with heavy basslines.

Tech platform

We’ve chosen to use the Arduino because it can perform Fast Fourier Transforms for analyzing audio frequencies quickly and we can easily integrate it with the hardware we will need to create vibrations. It is also portable (when combined with a battery pack) which will be critical to creating a wearable product.

Why we chose this idea

We chose this idea because the user group is accessible. There have been other trends in technology to match this same idea (approached in different ways) Skull Candy’s Skull-Crusher headphones attempt to vibrate the skull to provide concert-like experiences. We were torn between several ideas, and this project seems to match our group’s interest as the most exciting.

The Best Way to Spend Time before Class: Note Clouds!


In the time before class, many students and Faculty could use tools to organize themselves, get to class sooner, or use their time more effectively in general. Before my classes, students perform a variety of tasks:

  • Checking email 
  • Texting Friends
  • Playing Angry Birds
  • Reading notes from the previous class
  • Searching through browser history to find a previously read article

In general, the atmosphere was a bit uneasy and people were not striking up conversation.

Since I have precepts 10 minutes after my lectures (often on the other side of campus) I had the opportunity to follow my classmates to precept. Often their routes were not efficient

On my route to class, I always pass by two of my friends who walk together since they have classes in the same buildings two periods in a row.


I brainstormed on my own and with several students in an outside of class – in many cases, directly interviewing subjects to get opinions. (Individuals include Nigel Brauser, Sara Figel, Kate Gardener, Kelsea Best, Angad Anand, Abbi Ward, Dillon Sharp, George Touloumes, and Brendan Wright)


I generated a list of ideas which could possibly help students use their time more effectively before class:

  1. Figure out what is for lunch or dinner – an easy app which shows information about food (maybe even that it looks like!)
  2. People want to start conversation with those around them – make an app to pose conversation topics, those in the same location can see them. These topics expire after 10 minutes (state what you look like so they know who to interact with)
    1. Had to add this note: I think that this application would be very popular among students: It encourages discussion before class which warms up student’s brains and helps to create a comfortable environment in which to discuss for seminars. But this particular application is hard to prototype and get feedback on
  3. Track the location of your friends and where they are going – maybe you’re close to each-other! You can walk together, or you’ll cross paths, map paths to interact
  4. Keep track of articles you have bookmarked, allow you  to read them in your spare time
  5.  An app that shows you a word cloud of your notes from last lecture – jog your memory enough for you to remember!
  6. Take mini quizzes and see what your friends answer – could be fun or intellectually challenging
  7. Application which determines the fastest path which you can take to get to your classroom
  8. An application which allows professors to save the settings they like in the lecture hall so the are remembered for next lecture
  9. A troubleshooting program for professors to follow when setting up a lecture hall – this way they have something to do while waiting for someone to come and try to help them
  10. Something which tracks which students are present in the lecture hall, then the professor can start earlier and everyone doesn’t have to wait
  11. For Tower Club Members – A way to order food from the grill when you’re on the go (you can stop by the club and pick it up between classes if your schedule is too packed for lunch
  12. Something which tests your ability to remember name/face combinations (quiz yourself to remember new acquaintances.
  13.  A check list that makes sure that you have everything you need before class. Dynamically updates with which classes you have that day and can tell you what items you will need for the weather that day
  14. An application to show you your course syllabi so you can have a larger view of where you  are in the course and how close major deadlines are
  15. An application which can show you the location of electrical sockets in your classroom so that you can charge your computer
  16. An application which shows you study spaces which are close to your classes so you can quickly get to work when you’re done with classes for the day, and discover new study spaces.

Prototypes: Two ideas were chosen to prototype one of which was tested on users

Face-name quizer: Face-name combinations can be really hard, especially in a new seminar with a ton of people. This application will help you match faces and names so that you feel more comfortable participating in your seminars. Here’s how it works:

The user can create groups of people which they want to be quizzed on:


Using the Princeton database, students’ names and photos can be added to the application for quizzing (this would probably have to be approved using a student ID). Either name to face matching or face to name matching are available in this application


Name matching shows a name which the user has to visualize


And the user can see the face to ensure that they are thinking of the right person. Names can also be skipped if the user knows them and doesn’t need to be quized


Face to name recognition will show a face and ask the user to think of the name


Similar to name to face recognition the user can skip faces


As an expansion on this project, the application could track names and faces which the user marks as “hard” and will show those names and faces more often until the user marks them otherwise.

Note Cloud: Effectively skim your notes


People want to review their notes, but only what is important – skimming doesn’t really get the job done effectively and this application shows you the weight of different topics from the previous class; it’s great for those who type their notes so they can select words within the cloud and find instances of those terms.

Here’s how it works:

Students add classes which they are a part of and can select particular classes they want to review


Lecture notes sync online to allow user to access them on their phone – these are typed notes which the user has taken while typing. Below we can see an example of “Lecture 3” becoming available after manual sync


Selecting a lecture shows a word cloud of important terms from that lecture.


By selecting a term from the word cloud, the user can see all instances of where that word appears in their notes. By selecting the instances, they can see their full notes and what they wrote about that term (this also allows full note browsing with the term highlighted)

NC9 NC10

If students want to remove items from the word cloud temporarily in order to see the second most relevant terms they can do that as well.





The word Cloud prototype was tested on several subjects (Some who were even in PSY 208) Subjects included Dan Steurer, Erica Sollazzo, and George Touloumes.

–          Without prompt, users were able to figure out that the application is used to jog their memory about key concepts from previous lectures which they had taken notes on. The interface was intuitive enough that they could figure out what was happening.

–          A prompt to tell people that they can click on words to see instances of them in their notes would be helpful,

–          Users were unsure of why they would use the remove function to narrow down the word cloud (they may be capable of ignoring larger words on their own)

–          Users wanted a way to search for multiple words at the same time – perhaps a drag and drop option to select your words then “GO!” to see shared instances of them

–          Users wanted to be able to add to their notes (a text editor which will also sync with their notes)

–          Users were concerned that coordination with lecture slides may be lost (many users take notes in power point) the application should be made compatible with power point slides

–          Two users immediately identified that this application syncs with notes in the cloud because of the presence of a sync button (and perhaps the hint from the title “note cloud” which could refer to the word cloud generated or the fact that notes are stored in the cloud)

In summary, I think that either of these applications could be a potential success and user feedback has certainly given me more directions to expand.