All posts by mike

A Touch of Fry

A Touch of Fry was our studios response to the Your Fry competition. This competition saw the one and only Stephen Fry make the content for his new book More Fool Me open source (text, artwork and audio). Along with his publishers Penguin Random House, they set a challenge to everyone to interpret this content in any way they wanted.

Title Image


A Touch Of Fry explores what happens when the emerging technology of printed electronics enables the mixing of digital content and paper. By doing so it explores what happens when we connect paper to the web and what this might look, sound or feel like for the publishing industry.


By screen printing Bare’s conductive paint and connecting to their newly kickstarted TouchBoard, we have created a capacitive touch surface on the cover of More Fool Me. When you touch parts of the cover you hear different audio clips. The artwork remains the same we’ve just hidden a few audio easter eggs on the cover for people to uncover.

Next up, by adding an IoT platform such as Electric Imp, we will be able to connect the front cover directly to the web. This will allow updateable audio at any time. You could hear live updates of content throughout the day or night of Stephens thoughts, feelings and possible secrets – anything that Stephen wants people to hear.

Beyond audio, connecting the cover of a book to the web poses a much bigger question. It is the question of data. It asks us to think about what will happen when things all around us are connected to the web. It asks us who will have the read, write and execute permissions of data created by things. It asks us what shape the internet will be when we can connect it to anything.


A Touch of Fry was one of the three winning submissions of the YourFry project. We have plans to take this idea further, we will keep you posted with any developments.



Unlimited Space Agency and Bare Conductive at Greenman

Jon Spooner, Head of Human Spaceflight from the Unlimited Space Agency approached us this year to see if we could do something for Einstein’s Garden at the Greenman festival.

Together we came up with a workshop that allowed the attendants to connect paintings created with the amazing Bare Conductive paint to the International Space Station. This paint conducts electricity and meant that the painting could have a bunch of LEDs glued on that could flash when turned on.

We created a giant space communicating antenna that all the painting were hung on. As the International Space Station flew over the antenna became live and the painting all started to light up!

This would not of been able to happen if it was not for the amazing support from Bare Conductive!


Team UNSA preparing for a new influx of agents.
Mission control. The screen shows the proximity of the International Space Station. The control unit up top has two keys switches to override the system and allow for testing.
UNSA’s Head of Human Space Flight Jon Spooner looks worried just before we power up the antenna
Everything goes live and the LEDs all start flashing!
blog 6
The cable made to connect paper to the antenna.


Unlimited Space Agency using Bare Conductive at Greenman 2013 from michael shorter on Vimeo.


UNSA – Jon Spooner’s next steps to Space

During the International SpaceApps Challenge in Exeter the Product Research Studio focused on helping Jon Spooner, an aspirant astronaut from the Unlimited Space Agency, get a few steps closer to his adventure into space.

Last year at the SpaceApps Challenge the team made a mini version of Jon Spooner in the hope he could go up to space in an astronaut’s pocket. Unfortunately this was never realised. So to help mini Jon get a bit closer to space we decided to make him a rocket with an on-board computer to run some test flights monitoring his environment. jon’s new rocket was 3D printed and filled up with mini-Jon and a Texas Instruments CC2541 Sensor tag.

More to follow…












Playing Paper

Playing Paper was created for the Paper exhibition put on by Analogue Social. This exhibition show from the 9th April to 12th May at the Lighthouse, Glasgow. 

Eight designers were chosen to create a project using paper for this exhibition. The designers choosen were Kate Colin, Kerr Vernon, Kerry McLaughlin, Lisa Catterson, Alan Moore, Jemima Dansey Wright, David Ross, Craig McIntosh and myself, Mike Shorter.

I decided to propose an evolution of The Invite. In creating the Invite I learned a lot about how to screen print with Bare Conductive carbon based ink. I saw this project as an opportunity to deploy all the things I had learnt, from graphic limitations to ink dilution.

Playing Paper consisted of three artworks, with the aim of showing that paper electronics doesn’t have to be all circuit diagrams, but can be much for artistic. This was achieved by having the artworks display three different levels of circuit, one very technical and traditional, one with hand drawn components and the other with instruments drawn. When plugged into the mixer the three artwork were all turned into musical instruments, all creating the same sounds. Three printed buttons on the bottom of the page gave off different drum sounds when touched, and a distance sensor printed at the top changed pitch the closer you got to the ink.


To make the screen printing a much less stessfull the Bare Conductive paint was diluted with water (roughly 4 parts paint to 1 part water). This made the paint less sticky so it flowed better on the screen, and also slowed down the paint  drying in the screen.


With this new diluted version of the paint the printing became much easier and we were able to print out over 50 artworks with about 100ml of Bare Conductive. Last time when we printed with Bare Conductive we made the trace thickness 1pt in illustrator which made it far to easy to mess up printing if enough pressure wasn’t applied when printing let alone the paint drying in the screen. This time the traces were all 2pt which led to a 100% success rate!


I decided to print out a bunch of the artworks in a couple of different colours. I was planning on exploring how other colours would print on top of the Bare Conductive but forgot due to the excitement of the printing going much better than expected! They look pretty good as a collection.


I decided I wanted to output noise to be a bit more exciting than that of The invite, so i decided to add an MP3 Trigger to the electronics inside the mixer. This allowed the three buttons along the bottom to control drum samples. In doing this it also meant that the ‘theremin’ sound was a lot smoother. Playing Paper stilled used the bespoke bulldog clip that was used with the Invite. This method still remains the best way I have seen to connect paper to other devices.


The preview of the show at the Lighthouse was absolutely packed! Playing paper was in constant use as the grubbiness of the prints illustrated, two hours of being constantly touched by excited fingers…

Below is a quick little video of Playing Paper at the Lighthouse on the preview night. After the show is finished I plan to upload a video with real time sound…

Playing Paper from michael shorter on Vimeo.

Mike is Presenting at the Electric Bookshop Shop Late Lab




Mike Shorter from the Product Design Research Studio will be presenting his thoughts on the future of paper tomorrow night. This event is part of the Edinburgh Science Festival and is being organised by the brilliant Electric Bookshop at Inspace.

There is a great line-up for this event, Mike will be talking with:

Ian Sansom the author of the amazing book  Paper; An Elegy. 

Alyson Fielding, an artist who hacks books, stories and Arduinos.

And finally Yvette Hawkins, a paper atrist who makes wonderful artworks and sculptures out of paper.

Check it out here

With this great diverse collection of speakers there are going to be some great conversations!


Mini Mars Rover


The Mini Mars Rover was built for NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge by Mike, Tom and Ali. The Mini Mars Rover will move in the exact same pattern as his big brother on Mars. It will also display some other live data such as sound and images. The Mini Mars rover was built to roam around the home environment allowing the users to have a connection to the Mars Rover as it explores alone. We want to take boring data and make it tangible and exciting.

The Mini Mars Rover is an internet controlled robot. He comprises of a Wild Thumper chasis, an Arduino and an Electric Imp.


The Mini Mars Rover began life by building a new laser cut acrylic body onto the Wild Thumper 6WD chassis, and adding some more suitable wheels.


The Mini Mars Rover has just come back from an eventful time at SXSW Interactive in Austin,Tx. Not only was he found driving around the Space Meet Up event but he also featured on the Making Space Data Real on Earth panel. This panel was hosted by Ali Llewellyn from the NASA Open government initiative, David McGloin and Jon Rogers from the University of Dundee and Jayne Wallace from Northumbria University.

Below are some videos of the rover in action….

On Mashable –

On the Global Post –


The Mini Mars Rover can be controlled from this url: 

Team NASA (including an astronaut) get behind the Mini Mars Rover

Here’s is some code for you….

Squirrel for imp (adapted from an online source which I can no longer find…) :



// remote control for rover
ledState <- 0;

function blink()
// Change state
ledState = ledState?0:1;
server.log(“ledState val: “+ledState);
// Reflect state to the pin

// input class for LED control channel
class inputHTTP extends InputPort

name = “power control”
type = “number”

function set(httpVal)
server.log(“Received val: “+httpVal);

if(httpVal == 1) {


else if(httpVal == 2) {


else if(httpVal == 3) {


else if(httpVal == 4) {



function watchdog() {

// start watchdog write every 60 seconds

// Configure pins as an open drain output with internal pull up

// Register with the server
imp.configure(“Reomote Control for Rover”, [inputHTTP()], []);


Arduino code (thanks Chris Martin!)…



Reads an analog input on pin 0, prints the result to the serial monitor.
Attach the center pin of a potentiometer to pin A0, and the outside pins to +5V and ground.

This example code is in the public domain.

int pinf=2;
int pinl=12;
int pinr=10;
int pinb=9;


#define LmotorA 3 // Left motor H bridge, input A
#define LmotorB 11 // Left motor H bridge, input B
#define RmotorA 5 // Right motor H bridge, input A
#define RmotorB 6 // Right motor H bridge, input B
#define v 255


#include <Servo.h>
//Servo myservo;
//int led = 12;
int pos = 0;
// the setup routine runs once when you press reset:
void setup() {
// pinMode(led, OUTPUT);
pinMode(pinf,INPUT); // initialize serial communication at 9600 bits per second:



// this is different on the serial monitor not sure if it is up or down
// Serial.begin(14400);

int lls=0;
int rls=0;
int al=0;

// the loop routine runs over and over again forever:
void loop() {
// read the input on analog pin 0:
int sensorValue1 = digitalRead(pinf);
int sensorValue2 = digitalRead(pinl);
int sensorValue3 = digitalRead(pinr);
int sensorValue4 = digitalRead(pinb);
// print out the value you read:
Serial.print(” : “);
Serial.print(” : “);

Serial.print(” : “);
delay(25); // delay in between reads for stability


if (sensorValue1 == 1) {

delay (500);
// myservo.write(10);
// delay (500);


if (sensorValue2 == 1) {
// digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
delay (100);
// myservo.write(10);
// delay (500);


if (sensorValue4 == 1) {
// digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
delay (100);
// myservo.write(10);
// delay (500);

if (sensorValue3 == 1) {
// digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
delay (500);
// myservo.write(10);
// delay (500);





Supported by New Media Scotland’s Alt-w Fund

Alt-w Square k


Electric Imping


Over Christmas I was having a bit of a rest from writing my transfer report by playing with my new Electric Imp.

This wonderful little device is the size of an SD card that can be embedded into objects to make them internet enabled. I managed to create a few Christmasy experiments over the festive period. The first experiment was to borrow Bendan Dawes’ wonderful example to create a tweeting Christmas tree, every time the tree lights went on in the house it sent out a tweet to let everyone know. This was done by sticking an LDR directly onto one of the tree lights to recognise when they were turned on. When the imp sees that the lights are on it sends a message to, which composes a message and tweets for you.

Screen shot 2013-01-10 at 15.00.04


The second experiment was to make the Electric Imp work the other way round. Instead of using the real world as an input and digital world as an output,  I wanted to control the real world using the digital world. I managed to hack some code together from online examples so that every time a website was refreshed it activated a servo motor to spin a mini Christmas tree.

Electric Imp controlling a servo motor from michael shorter on Vimeo.

This code was then combined with a mains relay, now when the website was visited it turned the Christmas tree lights on, and then off when visited again.

Electric Imp controlling Christmas tree lights from michael shorter on Vimeo.


Conductive Ink Workshop at MakLab


Mike, Tom and Roy from the research studio held a conductive ink workshop at the wonderful MakLab in Glasgow. The aim of the workshop was to introduce conductive inks to to collection of Glasgow creatives to show them its potential. The workshop was attended by people from various backgrounds, from design to printmaking.

We went armed with some 555 timer circuits that allowed people to get stuck right into playing with the ink and interactions, and not worry too much about the technology side of things. The 555 timer circuits made it really easy for people to create basic noise making devices.

Due to the fact that the technology for the workshop was pre-prepared it really allowed people to concentrate on creating some great paper interactions. By the end of the night the ink had moved away fro paper and onto other objects like wooden blocks and even skin (much against the manufacturers recommendation).

Workshops like this are always rewarding because not only do you get to meet a bunch of great new people, you also always come away with some new information – this workshop was no exception. Sophie Dyer introduced us to a low tech screen-printing technique. This technique allowed us to rattle out  multiples of prints in less than an hour (this even includes cleaning the screen!). The magic thing about this process is that you can create detailed prints without having to expose a screen. Instead, you use a vinyl cutter to create the mask, and stick it on the underside of the screen. You then put a towel (or something soft) down on the table, tape your paper to the back of the screen and away you go!

Culture Hack Scotland, Skinny’s Jeans and Trackman Word Installation


Mike, Tom, Roy and Jack all headed over to Glasgow for Culture Hack Scotland last weekend for 24 hours of hacking objects using an amazing bunch of data sets from various cultural services.

After a couple of hours of idea generation it was midnight and we decided we had better decide on what ideas we wanted to make. By this time we were all getting a bit delirious and decided to take the Skinny’s listings data and make a pair of jeans progressively dance more as more events were happening in Glasgow, visualising the cultural activity in the city.

We also wanted to take the data from a new novel by Catriona Child, Trackman. 

We decided to isolate sections of text so the viewer could reflect on each element more than if it was in a body of text. We wanted this to be an interactive installation, the text would only reveal itself when the viewer was in proximity.

Mike holding up the workings of Skinny’s Jeans.

A quick video of the first testing of Skinny’s Jeans…….

Testing the pico projector around Society M.

The final install for the Trackman installation, subtly positioned on one of the desks in the main room with the pico projector cleverly hidden in a lamp above.

SXSW 2012


The Question:
Can Printed Electronics Save the Music Industry?

The Panel:
Jon Rogers, Pete Thomas, Tommy Perman, Kate Stone and Kenny Anderson.

The Discussion:

At SXSW we discussed how printed electronics could save digital music in the context of connecting communities to record labels and artists.

Printed Electronics is an emerging technology with the potential to change how we interact. We can now reliably print basic electronic components onto paper and card; and when connected to conventional electronics, has the potential to re-connect digital to physical for album covers, fanzines, merchandise, and getting new music heard.

We raised questions of what does digital mean to independent hyper-local record labels that want to connect with their community and how bespoke digital printed electronics on paper could achieve this and alter the future of digital music and how artists can connect to people.

You can listen to the full discussion here.

The Prototypes:

Mixer Release: This object looks like a 7” record release, but has no vinyl. It instead has an inbuilt mp3 player that the user can remix using a paper mixer built into the sleeve. This object was created to start discussions around piracy; what if there was no definitive version of a song.

Night/Day Release – This object is a CD sized card case release that has a built in mp3 player. The lyrics to the song change depending on light levels, if it’s dark then its explicit, and if it’s light then its child friendly. This object was exploring how music can be reactive to its surroundings.

‘Wireless’ is a paper radio!  It pulls audio content from the internet and plays it back on a piece of paper.  This particular prototype is ‘powered’ by audioBoo and plays audio tagged with #sxpaperapps.

This is an experience prototype of a potential future scenario, and as such, a few non-printed components have been used. In the not so distant future we’ll be able to print the audio speakers and print the silicon required for the chips. Importantly though, the backend of the touchpoints (‘buttons’) is conductive ink, so the user experience is as true as it would be if all of the technology was printed onto the paper using conventional printing presses.


MSC Invite – This invite was printed with conductive ink. When plugged in at the event the invite is turned into a musical instrument. This invite was created to add value to a normal piece of paper with very little expense.

Mike demoing some of the prototypes after the panel.

Paper Headphones – These headphones come in an A2 poster format, but can be popped out and built up into paper headphones. 100 of these were produced to test out the current efficiency of batch production.