Sagar Mohite is a computational artist and an engineer based in New York City. His work has been an exploration in combining principles of design and computational sciences to generate visualizations.

So another week passed and I finally decided to deal with the procrastination that was holding back my blogging activities. Whenever I sat to blog down my work I used to find something relatively more exciting to do. But I kind of figured that a log must be maintained, for one day (and that day may never come) I might run out of exciting stuff to do and I might have to turn back to pick a leaf from my past.

We made a mouse today! Even though it was a perfect little mouse, it simply could not resist eating the cheese we offered. But I can distinctly remember the feeling of satisfaction when we controlled the speed of the mouse’s motion. Well it wasn’t technically alive, so there was no guilt of altering its free will and sorts; but there was a limitation. Although we could control it’s speed and motion to a certain extent, we never managed to train it to not eat the cheese lying infront of it.

“He said it could be done using two sensors!”, I said to my partner, who was also trying to figure out how to get it running up and down and not just left and right. Then we decided to consult him again and as always help was provided for those who sought it! We fixed our programs and got the mouse running up and down as well.

However, the additional degree of freedom also convoluted the problem that we were having initially. The mouse would almost every time eat the cheese we offered. It was very difficult to control it.

This was when I decided to put it to test. I tried to evaluate the mouse (qualitatively) on Don Norman’s three way structure.

The Visceral Mouse
We had already dismantled it so there was no question of putting it together to be evaluated by others. So I tried to clear my mind after which I asked myself whether it looked or felt good?. Of course I could not get a clear perspective as my reflective was veiling my vision and telling me its bad; but some part of me kind of liked the way it looked. Maybe because it was an exposed piece of hardware and looked crude. I personally like such purist imageries. At the same time I could imagine people not liking it because it did look ugly after all. It did not feel good at all though – flimsy, weak and prone to damage every time someone touched it. So on the visceral level our mouse fared poorly.

The Behavioral Mouse
Well it was working, but it ate the cheese every time we tried to steer it.
One could use it, but it was definitely not usable.
Enough to say that it failed on the behavioral level.

The Reflective Mouse
I started with a presumption that it would fail the reflective level too. As I began assessing, it turned out to be an altogether different story. Well it was definitely not good at not eating the cheese, but it was amazing at doing weird things after we moved our hands over it. So maybe it was not meant to be a utilitarian mouse in the first place. Maybe the thing we made needed to have a redefined purpose and not just be a mouse that someone can control. (Because if controlling is all that is required then the need of the hour would be Darth Vader). It occurred to me that redefining the purpose could completely change the way the visceral and the behavioral tests were made in the first place.

The mouse definitely passed my reflective test. Because even though I thought that it was unusable and lacked smartness, it opened up a pool of infinite possibilities on how a small tweak could make it a something very different from what it is. On one hand, you add thousands of photo-resistors to it and it becomes a panel that can detect finger gestures and on the other hand you remove one photo-resistor from it (and also add a piezo) to have your own mini Light Theremin that sounds like R2D2!