- SparkFun LCD screen
- mini solderless breadboard
- jumper wires
- Arduino Uno
- force sensing potentiometer
- 10 KΩ resistor
My project is the comfort bunny. You can see the planning stages for my project here. Essentially, this idea arose from a training I had while volunteering at the counseling center about “the 5 love languages”. In short, it states that everyone communicates affection in specific ways, and needs it communicated in certain ways as well. I would define myself as a person that requires words to be comforted, as I think many adults do as well. On the other hand, children can usually be calmed with a favorite stuffed toy. Accordingly, I wanted to create a stuffed toy that would function as an artificial human companion at a crossroads of childish whimsy, and grown-up need. Accordingly, it’s an outgrowth of a now adult’s once beloved toy: it tells you the things you need to hear when you need to hear them, through a comforting squeeze and with word-based feedback on an LCD screen.
When the bunny is squeezed in the center, it lights the LCD to display a message, reminding the user to breathe, and assuring them that everything will be okay. Internally, it’s a circuit between an Arduino Uno, a force sensitive resistor, and a 16×2 LCD screen. When the resistor is pushed, it lights the LCD screen, which scrolls randomly through a series of four messages every 7 seconds.
The code below displays my first step in getting this to work: it’s simply connected to a knob potentiometer to show the message.
For this step, I’ll be adjusting my circuit to connect a force potentiometer instead of a knob potentiometer, and then to have a few different messages display based on the pressure applied to the variable resistor.
Once inside my enclosure – the stuffed animal – I’ll have to ensure that where to apply pressure is clear to the user.
I got the force sensitive resistor boarded in place of the knob potentiometer, and then got to work moving the circuit onto a mini breadboard. The LCD component costs $15, so I kept it on a solderless board to preserve it.
As I was adjusting the messages, I realized that my original plan to change them based on pressure wasn’t possible. Since the force potentiometer is the source of power for the LCD – it merely dictates whether messages will be seen or not based on how much power is allowed through – changing different messages based on that made the LCD lose the bright/fade function that I feel was a really complimentary feedback.
Above is my final code for my product.
This video is a comedic interpretation of how the bunny would function in situ. Prior to this, a user would have perhaps had a terrible day at work, or failed a test, and was left feeling wiped and upset. The bunny is quirky – it looks odd to have an LCD in a stuffed toy, so it tends to make people giggle. During our in-class demo, people found it to be more of a stress ball than I had forseen because it feels funny to squeeze the bunny and have it respond with visual feedback of this kind. I see a different direction for it as a result – with some changes to the message loop, it could be kind of aggressive messages asking for people to figure out their nonsense (put kindly), because it would throw people off enough to let their guard down and laugh for a moment.