Project 4_ Cutback Remix_Deren Guler

by deren @ 12:31 am 27 March 2012

This is a new version of a project that I started a while ago, but haven’t had time to really push through. It’s pretty pointless, but I am extremely amused by household objects that respond to you. Chambers Judd has a series of small projects about giving inanimate household objects emotions, such as the “antitouch lamp” that backs away from you and the sneezing radio that cleans itself. Some motivation to keep going include blendie and noisy jello

I set out to make a cutting board that responds to you when you cut on it. The first version used 4 piezo sensors under a layer of acrylic that activated played a tone programmed using the arduino tone melody. Basically, the more you cut on it the more of the song you would play. Another version used the arduino Audiuno library and homemade force sensors acted like input to a synth, allowing you to make crazy noises while you cut. I got some interesting feedback from the initial attempt. I thought that the cutting board should respond in pain to being cut on, the way a human would, but many people said they would prefer if it made a more pleasant noise. Then came the question of “what if the cutting board knew what was on it and responded accordingly?” I have yet to think of an easy way to sense raw meat vs vegetables, or a really practical reason to try and figure it out so if you have any ideas please let me know! (The only thing I would want to do it make a cutting board that knows when you are cutting a vegetable and then fills with blood looking liquid, or squirts it at you).

So! in this version I changed the design of embedding the sensors (because the last one broke after less than an hour of use) and decided to try and interface with MAX/MSP. I used a Serial patch in MAX to read the analog input data from the piezo sensors in the cutting board. I also decided to try and stick the sensors in the wood, rather than sandwiching them between two layers of wood. I experimented with pouring epoxy on some milled out channels in the wood with the sensors in the channel and found that they still had some sense. I was pretty excited about this, because I think the resin, wood embedding mix can look really nice if you do it well. I’m still working on that part, but I think the latest version is not so bad. I also experimented with where to put the sensors because I wanted to be able to differentiate between chopping, vs. slicing.

Here is the arduino code for detecting the different kinds of cuts with the previous board:

void setup() {

void loop() {

//read sensors data
int sensorValue1 = analogRead(A0);
int sensorValue2 = analogRead(A1);
int sensorValue3 = analogRead(A3);
int sensetotal= sensorValue1+ sensorValue2+ sensorValue3;
if ( sensetotal > 200) //middle sensor, pounding

Serial.print(sensorValue3, DEC);
  Serial.print(" ");


if ( sensorValue2 > 0) //end sensors, slicing

Serial.print(sensorValue2, DEC);
  Serial.print(" ");

int sensorValue1old = sensorValue1;
int sensorValue2old = sensorValue2;
int sensorValue3old = sensorValue3;


and for sending data to MAX/MSP:

the MAX patch is adapted from a tutorial by Jason Safir

I have the slicing input playing a weird violin file, and the chopping playing some bongo drums. The nice part about the MAX/MSP set up is that you can easily switch out the sounds, maybe a child could mess around with that part and the mom could play the sound while she is making dinner? This would require some bluetooth action, but I think it is doable once I get a little more comfortable with serial communication and MAX/MSP.

1 Comment

  1. I love your idea of entering the kitchen / the household and having something interactive there.+1 Is is like a “russian roulette” thing that triggers once in a while at random? Or everytime?
    Your idea of having household devices respond to you is great! For the cutting board, I wonder whether a microphone is actually the right sensor rather than a piezo sensor. When you hear a high amplitude crack against the wooden cutting board, that means someone is cutting.
    It was hard to get sense for your project from the short video.
    I feel like there could be more noises, like a conversation with the cookware. What if the cutting board made fun of you, like saying “oh, I bet you cut your finger, didn’t you?” There’s a lot of potential here for turning the kitchen upside down.
    Your project could develop further with more sound effects and better display. The idea itself is great!
    Animal sounds would be hilariously grotesque. I can imagine having friends over for dinner and I pull out this cutting board without telling them what it is, and every time I cut the chunk of beef this pained moo is emitted from somewhere and weirds my friends out. I could also imagine several such devices making musical or percussive sounds so that when you’re in the kitchen with several other people you form an ad hoc band making music as you make food.
    ** yeah I love the pained animal idea. I think you can pitch it as a commentary on the obscurity of the source of our foods.

    Love the idea! It’s like living in a cartoon world where everything is sentient.
    Is the idea that the cuttingboard is screaming because you are cutting into it? or is it supposed to be the dying screams of the vegtables/meat you are cutting? Either of those would be hiliarious
    Like if all choppables were secretly like this
    I think it doesn’t make sense that it sings a song when you are cutting, it doesn’t really tell
    a story, or add to a cutting board “character”
    Good call on the piezo elements, they’re surprisingly useful for such simple things.
    I’d like to see some more thinking about the sounds that things should make. What if you interviewed kids? What if you did some more sketches and designs?
    What if you re-think things as ANIMALS.
    I think you could have various sets of sounds, one for screaming vegetables, one for birds chirping etc.
    What if instead of noises, they were movie clips pertaining to the action? Maybe funny… (watch it. it’s a classic) Or…what if the noises came from around the cutter, like the food’s ghost coming back to haunt you.
    ^^ That would be interesting
    What if you have a sensor that detected the weight of the food item being prepared and that data alter some part of the sound? Maybe the pitch or volume? +1
    Another interesting idea to explore might be somehow to visualize at the same time with the sound the traces of the cuts on the board, in order to show the affect of the knife edge on the material.

    Comment by admin — 28 March 2012 @ 12:22 pm

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