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Micro Motions - Rumbles (Sprint 1,Phase 2)

Micro Motions - Rumbles (Sprint 1,Phase 2)

What happens when you combine the word rumble, actuator, and cookies?

In this three-week experiment sprint focusing on Micro Motions, we were asked to explore visual interpretation onomatopoeias of a chosen word.

Working with shape memory alloy (SMA) as the primary technique, I searched for movements, behaviors, and motions that communicate what rumble (my chosen word) can be. As I achieved a satisfying expression for a rumbling surface, I was looking for a way to give it a sensuous responsive experience by connecting it with a significant data source - 3rd party cookies.




Our chosen onomatopoeia word was:

RUMBLE [ ruhm-buhl ] 

to make a deep, heavy, somewhat muffled, continuous sound, as thunder.

We were brainstorming and reinterpreted what rumble means to us.

Cumulus (Thunder clouds piling up), Ripple, Boombox, Constant random low sound, Haptic body vibration, Tension, Contradictory forces, Alertness,

We also thought about the sensor and the interactivity with our experiments, and instead of starting a system, we wanted to use it to make an already running “rumble” stop. That would fit better to the idea to pause something upsetting, to calm down, etc...

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EXPERIMENT 1.1 - Dive to SMA

Pretty quickly, we reached some visual traits that we were looking for; it made „… a continuous deep, resonant (movement) sound.“

The prototype is an electric circuit that closes by a weight; when the weight is dragging the mechanism down, closing the circuit, the SMA in the shape of a spring is activated, reset the alloy shape, and opens the electric circuit and so forth…



EXPERIMENT 1.2 - Flash and Bones

Using the former experiment's mechanism, we wanted to see how this can be extended to a more scaled-up appearance. We tried different types of materials to create a bouncy sheet that would represent rumbles, and it's soundwaves.


  • Using the former mechanism does not work well when increasing weight: It loses its energy and a unique micromotion.
  • It would be clumsy and hard to make a surface with multiple SMAs.



EXPERIMENT 1.3 - Rumble Stick

We wanted to take another approach to regenerate a rumbling sound by using a rainstick behavior as a starting point.


  • It's hard to reach identical opposed energy between two SMA mechanism that would stretch each other
  • We are trying to mimic what rumble is instead of interpreting it
  • Currently, there is no justified reason for using SMA and not any other actuators




At the end of the first phase, Alex and I decided to split as we both wanted to take the project differently.

I decided to take one step back and rethink rumble from a different angle, focusing on the vigilance and alertness that one becomes when something is a rumble.

I adopted a more methodologically approach to focus on moving forward without handling so many variables in the experiment:

Quick and dirty Work fast only with paper.

Measurements Stay consistent with one experiment at a time, stick to the same measures and materials.

The same mechanism Stick to a „pull out greeting card“ mechanism so I can focus on the motion interpretation.



EXPERIMENT 2.1 - Alertness

Rumble, to me, brings a sense of alertness; I tried to get the material and its micro motion communicating and causing an alert state.

  • I made a spike popping out, but it was too flat.
  • By cutting the yellow paper into slightly bigger, I created pressure that made the material rise up.
  • Checking the former try with spike shape.
  • Multiplying the spikes for broader impact.

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EXPERIMENT 2.2 - Defence

As alertness can be interpreted to various reactions, I wanted to see how the defense can feel. I found some interesting swelling and defensive motions that I developed into more complex ones.

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I forked the experiment wanting to find more precise ways to express defense.

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EXPERIMENT 2.3 - Rumble

Working quickly, I tried to find some new outcomes with my limited means I allowed myself. I played around, folded paper, and recognized that the model I have is rumbling. Then, I tried different folding ratios and different PVCs.

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From digital to physical

Looking after meaningful data to connect the rumbling surface, I searched for a digital phenomenon that lacks a physical existence.

A third-party cookie has so much impact on one's privacy and, at the same breath, has such minor presence for letting it. It would be expected to have a more significant presence reminding us of the implications of this act.


Simplified experience flow chart

Experiacne flow.pngExperiacne flow.png

Semantic color palette

I started the experiments with two colors, so the motions would have a contrast and would be noticeable. But it was by chance that I chose yellow and white. They fitted the sense of rumble - yellow for alertness and white-gray as a neutral peripheral surface.

Semantic colors.pngSemantic colors.png

Modular prototype that can be easily replaced with new tests.



A rumbling prototype

Experiment 3-1.2020-11-06 22_20_52.gifExperiment 3-1.2020-11-06 22_20_52.gif


It took some time to adjust to working with such delicate material on a micro-level of things. I'm still not convinced that the way I'm using the SMA is appropriate for my prototype. To continue from where I stopped, I would rethink the object, ultimately making it minor and only significant once it's activated. I would try to utter the micro motions, and lastly, I would iterate with how exactly the surface should be activated.

Ein Projekt von



Art des Projekts

Studienarbeit im Masterstudium


foto: Prof. carola zwick foto: Prof. Judith Glaser foto: Felix Groll

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Wintersemester 2020 / 2021