About my blog

I am multithreaded, and sometimes the threads get tangled.


a Studiolab production.


food design course at TUDelft
I blog in Italian
I have a LinkedIn profile
my lab is Studiolab!
I love Jasper van Kuijk's product usability weblog

the wind I am enjoying


De meningen ge-uit door medewerkers en studenten van de TU Delft en de commentaren die zijn gegeven reflecteren niet perse de mening(en) van de TU Delft. De TU Delft is dan ook niet verantwoordelijk voor de inhoud van hetgeen op de TU Delft weblogs zichtbaar is. Wel vindt de TU Delft het belangrijk - en ook waarde toevoegend - dat medewerkers en studenten op deze, door de TU Delft gefaciliteerde, omgeving hun mening kunnen geven.

Posts in category Courses

LikeMeat, MSc graduation project



update 23-6-2011: this assignment has already found its student. I am keeping this announcement here for historical purposes only.

This assignment is for a DFI student, preferably one that has followed the Food, Design and Culture class. If prototyping, concept development at the fuzzy front end, new food products, creativity workshops and early user involvement (e.g. contextmapping) tickle your interest, this may be for you.

LikeMeat is an
European project (partners from Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Czech
Republic, Spain, Slovenia and Belgium) which aims at developing a meat-like meat substitute / protein
source which meets the requirements of the consumers of such products.  The consortium consists of three research
partners (WUR-FBR Wageningen, Fraunhofer Germany, BOKU Austria) and ten
companies (mostly SMEs). WUR-FBR (department Consumer Science and Intelligent
Systems) is in charge of the consumer research of the project. Fraunhofer
develops a meat alternative (LikeMeat) and BOKU is mostly involved in the
microbiological safety of the product. 
The SME’s are the clients of this project and commission the research
institutes with the project. LikeMeat is also the name of the meat substitute.



Notice that we are doing this in collaboration with
Wageningen University, a strong leader in food-related science and
technology. The student working on the project will come into contact with
companies and people that operate in the highly innovative new food
world – a very good networking opportunity for future work and


Develop a novel
product or meal concept that includes LikeMeat and targets flexible
vegetarians. This can be a product concept (ready food or ingredient), or a
whole meal concept including recipes and context. Small specialized tools can
also be designed as part of the concept, if necessary.


The project will run
from May/June 2011 to October 2011.

Creative workshop with
LikeMeat project participants  – end of May

Report on product and
menu/recipe concepts – end of Aug 2011

Report on concepts for
marketing the product, like packaging and communication – Oct 2011

Report on methods for
food product development – Oct 2011


You can contact me at w.aprile@tudelft.nl – but you can also just show up at Studiolab, I am there Tuesday to Friday. Do take a look at the complete call for a graduation student and decide if it is OK for you.

You may also want to read a handy guide I wrote: How to be my graduation student

for non-Delfters: a graduation student is a student who is doing his final MSc project.

(this project has also been announced through the usual channels – this is just extra exposure)

Arduino pointers and WoOz




Just a few pointers to useful posts and pages about Arduino activities that my students could find interesting:

  • Arduino and the I2C bus, an easy tutorial from Littlebirdelectronics. Make your Arduino talk with other Arduinos and thousands of electronic parts over this simple two-wires bus. Slower than serial but much lighter.
  • First steps into Arduino, from an experimenter called Will Eatherton
  • Reading a gas meter with Arduino, interesting and adaptable to reading other types of meters (electricity, for example) or measuring the movement of moving parts in genera. Uses also the Ethernet shield.
  • Building an Arduino based laser game, from the IBM developerWorks. Superbly detailed and clear, explains how to transmit small pieces of data over a laser beam (and it would also work with visible light).
  • Using interrupts to measure time, to go beyond what pulseIn can do for you (this is an Arduino board discussion thread, read and use with caution)

In other news, we got a fine example of the Wizard of Oz technique at the Interactive Environments minor:

The MindHive team was busy controlling two interactive blocks with RGB leds. Two team members manipulate three sliders each, and another team mate does the talking and demoing. Click on the picture to get it in full resolution (3.5 Megs). Read all about it in their blog post.

Pointers for photography

Today I gave a little presentation inside the Computer Visualization class, run by Daniel Saakes. During the talk, I mentioned a few websites with very useful material. Here they are:

  • photo.net is my standard pointer for introduction to photo technique. A very large site with a vibrant community and many useful tutorials
  • Computational Camera and Photography MIT Opencourseware site centered on the near future of digital photography. Unusual techniques to make you rethink photography.
  • Digital Photography from the School of Computer Science at Stanford. Includes applets to simulate photographic phenomena like depth of field. Very good in depth explanations of colorspaces and the gamma function.
  • dpreview.com Technical reviews of photographic equipment. If you want to see diffraction demonstrated, take a look at any of their lens tests and watch what happens when you stop down the lens.
  • Strobist will teach you how to use strobes and, more generally, how to think about light in photography. If you are thinking "I hate strobes", this is the site for you. If you love existing light photography, this is the site for you. 

Why not include the two extreme examples I showed today? So, extreme depth of field and extremely shallow depth of field:


This was shot in Overschie this morning with a 10.5mm lens stopped down at f5.6, which guarantees that pretty much everything you see is in focus.

this, on the other hand, was shot with a 100mm lens at f2.8 from about one meter of distance. The Depth of Field applet you can find on the Stanford site lets you compute that the DOF was just a few centimeters. You can tell by the fact that the eyebrows are sharp but the eyeglasses frames are not, nor is the ear.

If you click on the photographs, you can download a higher-but-still-reasonable resolution version where the DOF difference will be even more apparent. Many thanks to super-photographer Bruko for reminding me of Strobist.

DfI Thursday

It was great fun to get the Interaction Photosafari in motion at the DfI Thursday. The Photosafari is a part of a week of introduction that we will be doing every six months, to introduce new students to the wonders of DfI and make sure that the different "generation" of students know each others.

Participants here were asked to proudly show their cameras and take a photograph of what they were seeing. Of course, I couldn’t resist photographing back… You can also download a higher resolution version

Hacking the bread machine – 1

 I realize that, if I wait until all is done before writing it up here, it will simply never happen. Also, the motto of this blog means "a little and frequently" in my hometown dialect: I should heed my own advice.

 I have more or less succeeded in subverting the bread machine for my purposes, and I have added temperature control via a PID controller running on an Arduino (I am using the arduino-pid-library). It works, after a fashion, although

  • I have not calibrated the NTCR (aka thermistor), so I have no clue about real temperature, only very arbitrary units: room temperature is around 90.
  • this thing is sluggish. It takes several seconds before you see any effect from the 500W heater.
  • the bread machine has a built-in thermal safety that will melt and cut the power when the vessel overheats. But I have no clue at what temperature this happens, so I feel very nervous whenever it gets a bit hot.

The idea behind this activity is that, ultimately, a bread machine is just a pot surround by a vessel with a heater, plus a stirring device. If you ignore the bread aspect of it, you could do many things with such hardware, ranging from pasta sauces to desserts to rice. But, all the bread machines I know of are not programmable. They have a number of pre-programmed sequences of stirring, heating and cooling, and you are limited to them – I became acutely aware of the issue when playing around with sourdough bread and very long raising times.

Just for fun, here is the temperature graph with the current parameters:

  Tick marks on the X axis are at 250 seconds divisions, and the setpoint is at 400. The Y axis is, as I said before, in arbitrary units where 400 is probably around 100 degrees and 1000 is even brandweer bellen (call the fire brigade, please). The PID controller is running with a 1 second duty cycle, and the parameters are

P = 10.0

I = 0

D = 2.0

 In the graph above you can see a little overshoot at the beginning, moderate oscillations, a sag at the 4th division when I opened the machine and then recovery. The noise on the pink line is due to sensor noise being amplified by the derivative term – I think. Since I am just driving a heater, the noise is not a reason for concern. You can also see that the temperature never quite reaches the setpoint: this is as expected, because the integral term is zero. I tried to give the integral term a non-zero value, but this gave me big scary overshoots, even with ridiculously small values (I went as low as 10-17 before I gave up.) This is relatively easy to fix by adding a little bias to the setpoint. Since everybody likes graphs, I am including another one with a longer run. Here I am changing the setpoint, as indicated by the orange line.


this is a graph, it must be science!


  Tick marks are again at 250 second intervals. The orange line is the setpoint. Somewhere around the 10th division I had to go to teach in Food, Design and Culture (that I keep mixing up with a journal called Food, Culture and Society). Since I don’t trust my hardware or software at all, I cut the power to the heater, but did not stop the PID, who tried desperately to do its job without any control authority. The temperature decays beautifully along what looks very much like an exponential. I am not publishing any pictures of the hardware because it both very simple and very messy. Just wires and loose components, not even a breadboard.

(I realize that any Industrial Design Engineering bachelor student can build and tune PID controllers in his sleep, but I did not study at TUDelft. Heck, I did not even know about the very existence of control theory until five years ago).

 The temperature "program" here was just a switch statement inside an Arduino program, but in the future I will make it much more generic.

 The next steps are: building a programming interface, so I can load my own sequences of activities and doing a workshop with food-obsessed people here in Delft. I trust that they will provide me with brilliant ideas on what to do with my toy. Publish the design (HW/SW) so that other people can play with it. And write a brilliant paper about it all. Maybe I will claim that it is action research, who knows.

 In other news, ITD is going strong, and so are UTAR and Food, Design and Culture. Two papers are making their way through the review process, I am trying to get funding, together with Aadjan et al., for a startup  (this sounds unnecessarily grand), there may be an exhibition project happening in Qatar this summer and of course my lovely and wonderful graduations students are progressing. Some of them will even graduate soon! There is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. I am also wondering if Petri Nets are an appropriate representation for recipes – this makes it difficult for me not to start playing around with a wonderful Python library for doing all things Petri. It is called, appropriately Snakes.

 In other other news, I am currently in Romania on vacation. Will be back in Delft next week, right on time for the flavorful, exciting ending of Food, Design and Culture. I will be bringing back a typical Romanian product called ţuica: it is colorless, it smells good and it can knock you under the table with no effort at all.


ITD Jukebox project goes to Salone – 2


Interaction Design Lab nicely made a Flickr page with a selection of their shots of the exhibition.

the catalog of the exhibition came out very nice! This is the cover

More about Jukebox!

unfortunately it is in Italian, but you can read an English langauge early version of my text about the Jukebox project . it is published by Postmediabooks. I have personally  added it to Anobii

My Ars Electronica remarks

Thanks to the Interactive Environments minor, I have spent a remarkably intense weekend in Linz, visiting the Ars Electronica event.

From Ars Electronica 2009 2009-09-10-Linz


Find some photos of things I liked on my Picasa space.

ITD Jukebox project goes to Salone – 1

Just a quick note from the center of insanity that is our little lab here in Milano. The prototype is being finished, the software is being tweaked and the Dremel is getting a nice little workout. The Dutch students are finding out exactly how many espressos you can drink before you pitch face forward into a pizza. Meet the prototype as Jordi spins it rapidly for stress testing. Or was it just to look cool?


The odd-looking eggy-pill like things in the hands of Sjoerd are the song tokens: each one stands for a specific piece of music, according to a very smart and impossible to understand color code. Color coding rules! Unfortunately. 



A detail of the top plate. While you are laser cutting, why not take some extra time and do a fancy bit of laser engraving? 



This is what things look like late in the TUDelft-at-IdLab workspace at night with 24 hours to delivery time. Perplexed people considering magnets and fancy spring-based braking devices. Of course right now everything is MUCH better and all technical issues have been solved by Dieter who, in the next photo, looks just so happy.




It is a bit blurry, but I just wanted to share it with the world. Suicide by glue gun. A very TU way to go. Don’t try this at home, unless you are wearing your fancy giant white IKEA protection helmet!

Now we have to rush to Triennale, to install our fancy graphics on a 2.5 x 2.5 m display wall: or at least this is what they have told us. Considering the Salone way of doing things, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that our space has turned into a 10 x 10 m ellipse, or the inside of a turnip, or the spires of a Gothic cathedral.


the Spaceballs fallacy (#1)

a common disease of interactive projects, particularly of the interactive environments and service design class. Consists of assuming that every surface can, magically, display images and be sensitive to user behavior. Named after Spaceballs, an 1987 Mel Brooks science fiction comedy movie that spoofs Star Wars.

Here an apparently neutral and featureless wall panel



turns out to be a gigantic television screen, complete with an invisible camera for videocalls! Amazing! Imagine what kind of interfaces you could do with that.

If you haven’t watched the movie, go here, at time 5:10 – this also happens later in the movie with other innocent looking  panels in totally inappropriate locations. Also features, albeit in a serious manner, in the opening scenes of Total Recall (1990).


and if you want to claim that my culture consists strictly of SciFi movies from the last millenium, why you are welcome!



first in a series of interaction design fallacies.


liveblogging the ITD presentations

Disasters! We had the perfect plan: every group would, before 3PM, load their presentations on a lab Macintosh. Then we would transfer the presentations on a portable Mac and a portable PC, so that they could be played back in class on the students’ system of choice. Perfectly on time at 1545 in TBM.


the Castiglioni brothers, throwing fireworks in Zug



Unfortunately, one group showed up with the cursed USB stick of doom, that crashed the Mac and generally made everything deathly slow. Add to that the other group that had managed to produce a presentation that would run only on their own Macintosh. And of course the group that had wrapped their slideshow+music in a Flash application that probably tries to compute π as it plays back: and the QuickTime movie that would play back at the correct speed but only if it was not on fullscreen. And of course the surprising WMV file produced with a codec that VLC does not know anything about…Of course, all this could have been prevented with a dry run or at least some more preparation work on the part of the course coordinators.

Despite all the mini-disasters (from which we learn) we saw some very interesting presentations. We feel very optimistic about the future evlolutions of the concepts.

Lessons learned

  • we need to improve our presentation-craft
  • students need to improve their delivery techniques

In particular

  • slides full of tiny text make blood come out of my ears
  • people that say "and well that is our idea" say something redundant. When they say it in a way that implies that the idea is nothing special, I tend to agree with them.
  • transitions and fades mean something: they should not be used randomly
  • 100% green Arial text is just BAD. If it flies in and the flies out it is superBAD.
  • 5 minutes are enough to present 3 concepts, if you use them properly
  • 5 minutes are barely enough to rehash the brief and present one half concept, if you use them in the wrong way

If we do another plenary presentation (this one was tricky, 20 groups with 5 minutes each does not leave room for any uncertainty in stage management) we will provide the students with one single presentation machine that they will load and test by themselves, so that all the movies play and the presentations run.

I was a bit disappointed to notice that some concepts had not evolved much from last week’s presentations. I guess that I have to be clearer in my feedback. I was amused to see the Top Of the Pyramid concept (TOP) go forward :-)


© 2011 TU Delft