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

Playing Paper

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

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