Brady Bothwell is a self-described ‘maker, hacker and information sponge’ who lives to create and invent. He’s also an interactive experience designer with Toronto-based mixMotion and a Google Helpouts expert for Arduino. We caught up with him in his Dundas West apartment and studio to talk about his future-inspired new tech projects.

1. Hey Brady! What have you been up to lately?

I have a bunch of projects on the go. At mixMotion, we’re finishing up an animated lamp, which I designed the movement for. We’re duplicating it now, from one model to three, so it’s a lot of 3D printing at the moment. It’s not about designing anymore, it’s just putting stuff together. I am working on a couple of personal projects, one of them being a socially-responsible augmented reality tool, in the form of a bone-conducting headphone coupled with other tech that will use voice API’s without alienating yourself from everybody around you. I’m also working on a Nuit Blanche project with Callum Schuster. It’s his design and I’m facilitating the electronics for it. It’s going to be a big motion controlled, perspective warping experience but I don’t know how much I can actually say about it, just for the sake of the reveal…

2. Tell me more about your socially-responsible wearable. What do you intend to do with it?

What I have in mind for this bone-conducting headphone is for it to be an implant or guide to making a smart computer, phone, or a Raspberry Pi hooked up to the Internet that can be used without alienating everyone in your surrounding area. Google glass uses bone-conducting headphones for its feedback, but you’ve still got that camera in front of your face, you’re still shoving tech into someone else’s life. I want to create a device that doesn’t break your line of sight with the ear. It would add a third hearing input to the skull so you could hear all around you.

I am aiming to move into developing implants using body modifications. I want to come up with a couple of designs that add tech to points on your head and body, providing a roadmap for people to use the tech. It would be adjustable to someone’s skull, squishy, and could be used either for fashion (like blinky weird jewelry mounted from a mystery place) or utilities (like a LED beside your eye while your working). I’ve tracked down all the parts that are made by other people and I think if I do it with 3D printed stuff and use magnets it wouldn’t be at too much risk of tearing or pulling.

3. For the makers out there looking to get into this kind of stuff, what kind of programs are you using in your current processes?

I have a couple of different ways that I’m trying to make this headset. My preferred Arduino is the Teensy, a third party Arduino-compatible board. Its got a lot more power to it and recently they made an audio board that reproduces CD quality audio. One is a fully open source thing, so I’m using Raspberry Pi running an open, easily modifiable voice API called Jasper and it seems to be working well. I’m having some problems with the Raspberry Pi, which I think are fairly common, it’s just tracking the right drivers for the right things. In the meantime I’m just going to have it be controlled through regular voice commands through Google or Siri.

4. You’ve been described as a tinkerer, and you are mostly self-taught. How did you get into making your own tech projects? Would you say this a lifelong pursuit or more recent?

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I learned a lot about electronics when I worked at an old hi-fi repair shop, where I was exposed to a lot of the nerdy technology. Stereo nerds were the original PC nerds and gear heads of the electronics world. I got to see all the really intense high quality circuitry and the way circuit diagrams are laid out for repair, it was really interesting.

I started out of necessity for synths because I was poor and in school for Poly-Sci at Western, which I wasn’t all that into. I was looking for something interesting to do and I started to want to make electronic music. I didn’t have access to hardware synthesizers and I wanted to build my own. I built little light theremins from 555 timers and started circuit bending, getting old Casio keyboards and ripping them apart and coming up with some cool products. It was around the time I moved to Toronto that I started working with the first model of Arduino and making video jockeying software on Pure Data. Those two things coalesced and that got me the gig with mixMotion.

5. What inspires you at the moment?

I’ve been listening to the William Gibson Sprawl trilogy on Audible. Its constant inflow of futuristic, aesthetic, noire references, people smoking cigarettes in a really sexy way. The book is both a good and bad influence in some ways but in terms of the tech its got me really excited. I really want to start bringing that stuff forward and making cyber-punky stuff happen sooner because I want it, and the tech is there to slap it together right now.

6. Would you say working with mixMotion has influenced your practice a lot? Or vice versa?

When I started at mixMotion we were almost a pure video company, we were doing a lot of rentals. Installing televisions and cutting together video content was their bread and butter. Nowadays we’re working more with marketing agencies that are looking to create interesting experiences, which is what we’re starting to specialize in. We do brainstorming and group ideation, which as an introvert I have had issues with, because it’s not the way I like to work. Since I tend to handle project feasibility it’s sometimes hard to take that hat off and get into a blue-sky mind state where you’re just putting up ideas that are wildly outside of your ability to comprehend how you’re going to do them. I prefer to have time to put together thoughts about a project before I speak about it. But it’s resulted in some really good stuff.

I would describe my job as being really good at Googling stuff. You find out what the term is, you Google it and dive into forums and there’s somebody out there with 10 years experience with something and this is what they do.

7. You’re also doing your own music production as a side project. Can you tell me about your new toy?

It’s a Nord Lead A1. It’s a real serious analogue-modeling synthesizer. I’ve been doing everything outside of the box for a really long time and my friends who have analogues and outboard gear always say to me ‘you don’t know what your missing’ and I fully agree with them because it’s so much more fun.

A lot of what I produce is kind of darker and ethereal because I like cinema music. My brain wants to write Jon Carpenter-esque soundtracks to everything. I did the soundtrack for this short film Rough Trade a little while ago and I really enjoyed making audio to scene and writing to a visual. I’m playing with the idea of writing a screenplay and visualizing around writing songs for each scene. I’ve been going to a lot of techno festivals this summer so I’m in a really dancey headspace so I’m trying to produce more danceable, fun stuff. I’ve been getting really into hardstyle, doing everything on the triplet grid. I’m going to try and complete an album by the end of the summer.

8. What are some of the projects you have been most satisfied with in the last little while?

The lamp that we’re working on at mixMotion is really cool. We’ve been working on it for almost a year so it’s hard to keep the novelty up, but looking at it objectively, it’s going to be really cool. The technology I’ve had to develop to facilitate it will end up being really useful for a bunch of other stuff, so I’m excited about it. I would say it’s the most ambitious and well-constructed thing that I’ve been a part of so far. We have had our semantic differences but the team has worked really well together and we all want what’s best for the project. I’m really pleased with the way this headset is coming along. I’m really interested to see how someone would interact with someone with that on. As weird as it sounds, I’m extremely excited to get screw holes attached to my head (laughs).

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You can learn more about Brady through the links below:

Website, SoundCloud, Twitter.