Limited Memory
May 2020

My Role: Programming | Concept Video and Imaging
Team: Norris Hung, Aakash Dewan, Diana Pang
Tools: Arduino, Arduino IDE, P5.JS, C++
Timeframe: 1 week

‘Limited Memory’ is an audio recording device which requires users to be more intentional about the memories they keep and the ones they let go of. The device stores up to three audio recordings of three minutes that degrade over time unless the user chooses to ‘sustain’ the memory by playing the recording or let go replacing it with a new recording.

With our increasing use of technology, we have started relaying on devices and cloud service to store countless pictures, audios, videos and other types of memories of our lives. How many times do we revisit those archives, how much importance do we take while documenting our daily living?
The ideas behind Limited Memory were to challenge our current reliance on digital storage to help retrieve past, encourage people to relieve their memories and explore the concept of memory degradation over time.
Limited Memory is composed of a base station and three recording boxes. The base station holds the three recording boxes in their respective slots. It also has slot for selecting the recording box you want to listen to. The base station also has a “Play” button that allows a memory to be replayed and a “Let Go” button that will erase the information of the box. There is a “Reset” button to the side which will eliminate the recordings of all three boxes at once.
The recording boxes are wireless and can be carried with the person. They hold a lever that can be lifted in order to start the recording. Each box has a capacity of three minutes of audio recording. Giving the person a total of 9 minutes of recording time. The boxes also have a LED inside that will signal when there is a memory stored and when the degradation process is taking place, in case this memory has not been played in a while.

Play - interaction
Let go - interaction

Recording - interaction
Degradation - interaction
While conceptualizing the project, we put a lot of emphasis on the physicality of the memory and how that might influence others to feel more connected to it. The idea behind the degradation of the memory is not only to make people more aware of how much they relieve their memories, but also to propose the question on how we as humans ourselves tend to degrade our memories with the passage of time. ‘Limited Memory’ purposely proposes one of the hardest decisions as part of its design: should I keep this memory or should I replace it with a new one?

‘Limited Memory was created in the timeframe of 1 week.

This project included a variety of different moving parts and all of them needed to communicate with each other in a wireless way. We soon realized we had to come up with a way of creating a system that allowed us to rapid-prototype while still allowing a higher degree of fidelity in the final prototypes.
In order for the recording boxes and the base station to connect and communicate, we used a variety of different devices. An Arduino UNO was used in the Base Station, an Arduino Nano 33 IoT in the recording box, since this one needed to be wireless. A p5 sketch running on a laptop was used to facilitate the communication and recording of the audio.
For all of this to work properly, a series of State Machines were created to facilitate logic among the code since there were a lot of interactions dependent on multiple ‘if statements’.
While designing ‘Limited Memory’ we very heavily inspired by old-time radios and cassettes, specially due to its limitations and imperfections. One of the aspects that was specially appealing to us was the deterioration aspects of the tape and how easily recordings can get damaged.
Once the design was finalised, both the base station and the recording boxes were 3D modeled and later lasercut using MDF panels. Each piece was assembled by hand, including an acrylic top for each recording box. In addition to these materials, each box contained a 3D printed lever to activate the recording state and a NeoPixel strip to indicate the different core interactions.

Based on our initial inspirations, the degradation of the recorded memories was something we really wanted to achieve. In order to create this, we mapped ‘Reverb’ in p5 to a specific time period so the longer the memory is left unplayed, the more muffled the recording becomes.