We're turning up the heat on Social Media in the Soup Kitchen

Following on from the first in our series of SoupKitchen projects, which was focussed on avatars, we have been busy back in the SoupKitchen here at Strawberrysoup. This time round we have been cooking up a storm on Social Media.

For the benefit of those who have not read one of our SoupKitchen posts before, the SoupKitchen is our chance to experiment internally and undertake micro-projects that showcase some of the exceptional design and development talent we have here at Strawberrysoup. It is also a peak into our exciting behind-the-scenes development projects that are designed to inspire big digital ideas. A virtual kitchen pushing the boundaries of conventional digital media.

Our ideas often lead to wider creative and development-led solutions allowing businesses and creative junkies to be inspired by the capabilities of not only our team but cross-platform digital in general.

Generally speaking, the #Soupkitchen is where we cook up our awesome creative and often crazy ideas. Let’s see how the team approached social media from a different view point…

Team One

Mike Skinner

Adam Allaway

Harry Wiseman

A Kettle of Soup

The Idea

Team one had an idea in which they wanted to better integrate social media with the use of smart home technology and the Internet of Things (IoT). there is lots of automation in this technology driven world we live in at work and at home. How can businesses make better use of this technology and use cross-channel integration to help with wider marketing and communication efforts.

Cross channel marketing no longer suggests the intertwined efforts of two marketing channels such as promoting social media channels in your print media. it is the three dimensional application where as consumers are engaged across a range of devices on a number of platforms.

Broadly put, the idea was to automate social media when a physical action is completed, such as turning on a light switch, or (spoiler alert) boiling the kettle…

The Method

Using Raspberry Pi, our handy man Mike got to work rigging up a kitchen appliance to social media channel Twitter, kind of, crazy, i know!

The raspberry pi is a fully functional computer. It runs a Linux-based operating system (open source and free), and can be bought for around £30.

Our goal was to find a way of checking when the office kettle has been boiled, and to somehow link that with the web. We considered using temperature sensors, or a light sensor to detect when the kettle was on; but these approaches would involve adding wiring around the kettle itself. A neater solution was to monitor the mains current flow to the kettle’s plug socket, which would also open up other possibilities like recording the energy used by the kettle over time.

As standard, the Pi comes equipped with a number of IO ports – digital input and output sockets that allow the Pi to communicate with other devices. The mains current of the kettle could be safely and accurately monitored by an off-the-shelf hall-effect sensor, which can detect the magnetic flux of a high current and turn that into an analogue low-voltage signal. However, this still left the problem of converting this analogue voltage (somewhere between -2.5 and 2.5 volts) to a digital signal that could be inputted into the Pi. The solution was to use a cheap analogue to digital converter chip, and to construct a small circuit board to connect everything together in a small enough package to fit the original Raspberry Pi case (after prototyping the circuit on a breadboard).

Now with an input signal that the Pi could read, we set about writing a short Python script to monitor the signal and work out when the kettle had boiled. Knowing when the kettle was switch on was pretty simple – any current signal would indicate that the kettle was on.

Finding out how much energy was being used was a little trickier. In order to get an accurate current reading from the sinosodal input signal, we had to take readings at times that were out-of-phase with the 50hz power supply, find the maximum current for a given period, then adjust down to find the RMS current. Multiplying the current by time gave the energy used.

The Pi was equipped with a small USB wifi adapter. Using our Python script, when the kettle had boiled, we simply sent a http request to a separate cloud-hosted website endpoint written in PHP that used the Twitter API to send a tweet. The PHP script randomly picks a combination of words to form a tweet, just to keep the tweets unique and relevant to the time of day.


Team two

Jez Emery

Calum Butchart

Sam Stanistreet

SoupKitchen Pong

The Idea

The vision of team two was to use a hybrid of social media and gaming to better engage users when it comes to advertising platforms. As with many experimental projects, this one veered from social to gaming and the emphasis changed throughout, however there are still some key takeaways from what was achieved.

The idea was to create a social media based game, using smart devices as the controller, that can help brands to entice and engage users in a more interactive way. Something which could be used in real world advertising to stand out from traditional social media efforts. almost a new platform to capture social media users during their everyday activities such as waiting for a bus.

Simple social media integration to a game could see these used at bus stops and advertising space across the world, followed by an automated tweet to say you have played it, including the brands handle and location. Something simple such as enter your twitter handle to start a game could increase interactions ten-fold.

With a growing importance on not only mobile users but also user experience, it’s time to take social truly interactive.

The Method

This solution was designed to engage an audience on their device and harness a number of technologies in one. In basic terms, team two  looked for an existing NodeJS based pong game and modified it to fit our needs.

We looked at various options and settled upon one which we then pulled apart and added various of our own features: a distracting background, the SS logo to show our branded approach to social/public gaming, and mobile accelerometer based controllers for the paddle as this approach involved a lot of movement on the part of the player and made for a more interesting and engaging game.

This concept is perfect for users to use their own smart devices to engage with an external screen and compete against others. The below example is a video of the game in action and an idea of how users could be more connected.

In Summary

As with everything we create in the kitchen, we have showcased that social media is no longer just a platform for text and photos, but a whole new level of opportunity to not only engage with potential customers but to utilise other platforms and technology. Social media can be used to connect people outside of direct conversation. Until next time, we’re back in the kitchen working on the next project…