_ RESEARCH & PROTOTYPING

The broad research track focuses on Human-Computer Interaction and designing cyber-physical, tangible environments. What is most novel about it, is the scale, which expands to the scale of the built environment – so that human-machine interactions involve the dimension of space. The theoretical framework builds upon Gordon Pask’s Conversation Theory that encompasses human-to-human, human-to-machine, and machine-to-machine interactions in the context of the built and natural environments. An understanding of the Conversation Theory would offer a creative edge to critically think, research, and design.  This theory also promotes the value of collaboration across designers, artists, computer scientists, roboticists, and education specialists while bringing together Technology, Arts, and Media. This approach has many potential applications in integrating new technologies at various stages of design processes, practices, and design outcomes.
The overarching goal is to nurture the discipline of Intelligent Design Systems (IDS) through a focus on three themes: 
 
1) Computational Thinking (CT); 2) Parametrics; and 3) Digital Fabrication.
 

computational thinking

A professional practice cycle that may reiterate through the computational thinking practices includes decomposition, pattern recognition, pattern abstraction, and algorithm design. This practice cycle starts with breaking down a complex problem or task into smaller and more manageable parts (decomposition), which allows for noticing similarities and common differences that will help make predictions or lead to shortcuts (pattern recognition). Subsequently, during the problem solving process, unnecessary information will be removed making it easier to solve the problem and complete tasks (pattern abstraction). Lastly, a set of step-by-step instructions is developed to complete the problem-solving process through creating an algorithmic solution (algorithm design).
The nature of an architectural design process can benefit from CT practices where an iterative design process is the core activity for designing systems. Marc Gross’s comparison of the two words of ‘program’ and ‘design’ demonstrates a cogitable analogy between these two terms. The first part of the words, [pro] and [de], means out, off, or forward whereas [gram] and [sign] highlight the act of making a mark or written form. “Therefore, design has always been computational.” For example, Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral in France, constructed between 1194-1220, represents ways of thinking computationally from a very long time ago. The architect mathematically and computationally calculated the structure to increase the size of the windows with external buttressing for enhanced level of illumination (Figure 1, top-left). For another example, San Galgano Abbey, built around 1218 in Italy, shows an algorithmic design with the integration of different levels of abstraction, pattern recognition, and generalization to formulate a systematic approach to designing the building (Figure 1, right). As a contemporary example, Frank Gehry’s Dancing House (Figure 1, bottom-left) was designed and built with various modern computational tools such as NURB surfaces, mass customization of panels, double curvature, and a lot of computational techniques. What could be learned from theses precedents is the act of using computation during the process of design versus designing a building and then putting it into the computer, which contrarily is called computerization.
The full paper, published at 2019's Reynolds Symposium, elaborates ways of integrating and assessing CT practices into Design Education.

Figure 1. CT examples in architecture: Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral (top-left), 
San Galgano Abbey (right), and Dancing House (bottom-left)

 

published book

Museums have a well-established reputation for creating interactive environments by using both traditional and modern technologies of interaction. Technology centres and science museums are two particular prevalent examples that have quickly integrated interactive technologies to enhance the quality of presentation and level of interaction between both exhibits and visitors. Until recently, the meaning of ‘intelligence’ in the field of interactive environments has been developed as the model of control, feedback and monitoring to enable efficient operation of the systems. These systems were called “interactive environments”, they contain spaces with embedded computation and communication technologies intended to enhance ordinary activities. With the emergence of a new wave of digital technologies, museum visitors are no longer satisfied by simply visiting worthy displays of exhibits in glass cases. They expect to get actively involved with exhibits to experiment and informally learn from their own personified experience. This book examines the possibilities and challenges faced in the integration of technologies within museums in order to create interactive exhibition environments.
 

research lab

Arash currently is the director of Design Analytics Lab [DAL] at the Kennesaw State UniversityDepartment of Architecture. DAL develops, prototypes, and evaluates cyber-physical environments for an increasingly digital society. DAL strives to realize Intelligent Design Systems (IDS) that cultivate interactions across systems of people, places, and things in the context of the build and natural environments. The systems developed in DAL are the result of collaborative efforts among research labs, fabrication labs, and computer labs in the school. The research labs are the key components in the design and development of IDS. Computer labs provide the technology for simulation and analysis of systems, whereas fabrication labs offer spaces and equipment for digital fabrication, prototyping, and hands-on activities.
DAL’s research agenda is to investigate new paradigms for the integration of adaptable, interactive technologies and systems into the built and natural environments. Some recent DAL projects will be elaborated in the following sections.
 

CyberPLAYce

CyberPLAYce is a novel, interactive-computational construction kit for elementary school children and their teachers. CyberPLAYce bridges the physical and digital worlds, allowing young learners to bring their ideas, stories, and class subjects to life through the construction of cyber-physical environments. The CyberPLAYce construction kit is comprised of hand-sized, magnetic modules integrating a variety of electronic components, and panels, nearly two-feet on a side, that receive the modules and serve as physical building blocks for constructing cyber-physical environments imagined by children. Through play, children become comfortable with the working modules and panels; subsequently, they are provided matching non-electronic icon cards allowing them to quickly compose pattern sequences to map ideas, stories, and class content. 

CyberPLAYce merges play and learning in the physical world while transitioning students from consumers of virtual and digital-centric technologies into technological innovators and cyber-playful storytellers.

 

CyberPLAYce is a case of research-through-design. It has been designed and evaluated in four iterations. Each phase of the design-research investigation focused on specific aspects of the system improvement. The current CyberPLAYce prototype B-2 is a work in progress, which explores computational-spatial thinking as a way of solving problems. This allows children to live inside the problem space while thinking and solving a given problem. We are investigating how children can put together CyberPLAYce panels through highly customized joints and connections at a larger scale.

Students interacting with Prototype A-1 and Prototype B-1 [video clip]

An empirical study with 4th grade students using Prototype A-1 [video clip]

Archived video of the first prototype published in the proceedings of CHI 2014: the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems [video clip]

Figure 2. Spatial computational-thinking 

Figure 3. CyberPLAYCe as an exemplar case of research-through-design 

 

reTessellate

reTessellate: Modular Dynamic Surfaces Reactive to Socio-Environmental Conditions
reTessellate is a Dynamic Modular Tessellation (DMT) comprised of programable units, which can be stacked together, and collectively construct surfaces that shape-shift in response to the surrounding physical and social conditions aiming at enhancing the link between occupants and the built environment. The study investigates possible interaction modes including:
  • preconfigured interactions
  • responsive interactions
  • predictive interactions 
Published paper on the process of designing, programing, and testing a 
fully-functioning prototype at HCI International 2019 [link to the paper]
An earlier prototype published as a pilot study [link to the paper]

Figure 4. Assembly of DMT units offering triangular-, hexagonal-, and square-based tessellations

Figure 5. Prototyping and testing of the DMT system equipped with an Arduino, motion sensors, and actuators

 

interactive interfaces

A new generation of technologies and computer devices has contributed to the emergence of adaptive, high-performance building envelopes, which can be calibrated in real time to respond to various contextual conditions. This practice has fundamentally inspired and informed architects to integrate a variety of technologies and systems into the buildings. Interactive Interfaces find inspiration in the concepts of embodied human-computer interaction, where building envelopes are equipped with different electronic tools such as microcontrollers, sensors, and actuators. Several iterations of facade systems, from low- to high-tech, have been developed with the aim of making buildings more responsive, adaptive, dynamic, and engaging.

Solar Cell began with studying different patterns found in nature (ideation phase), and ultimately led to a final pattern, which represents the plant cell structure at a microscopic level. Different parametric tools were used to create the desired pattern with appropriate aperture ratios and angles. The overall intention was to develop a façade system, which adapts to sun path over time, harnesses solar energy through photovoltaic panels, and provides desired shading during the day. A fully functioning prototype was developed, which employs movable flaps called “Solar Cell”.

 

The kinetic component was inspired by the flower behavior, which opens up to receive solar energy. An Arduino platform was integrated to mimic  the flower behavior and create the actuation system. In the final prototype the apertures are powered by Arduino to open at certain angles when the light sensors receive daylight. Moreover, the apertures are equipped with photovoltaic cells to absorb solar energy during the day and power LED lights overnight. In other words, when the photovoltaic cells absorb enough energy, the façade will close and illuminate at night by LED lights, which will be represented by the seasons or any special events.

Figure 6. Process of pattern development inspired by nature using parametric tools

Figure 7. Solar Cell components

The Breathing Skin was designed and developed to mimic the human’s muscular system and movements of respiratory system. The design intention is in response to the concept of viewing architecture as a living organism, and not a mere static object. The ideation phase began with an analysis of origami shapes to define patterns and create desired flow through the skin. Subsequently, a complex pulley system was designed in conjunction with gear systems on two sides of the skin, which eliminates the need for multiple servomotors. An Arduino platform was integrated to power and program a servomotor, which actuates the gear systems and allows for a smooth flow through the skin.

Figure 8. The kinetic facade employing an origami tessellation