LA Frustration Meter

LA Frustration Meters are city embedded devices that document the neighborhood’s frustration level. Using IoT technology, the data is visualized and rendered real time online.

The devices are consisted of a button, a LED screen and a hitting pad. Encouraged to hit the pad as an expression and release of frustration, the residents will then receive customized notes from the machine based on their input value.

The data is visualized on the website real time. The higher the city’s frustration is, the more vibrant the terrain is.

This project aims to provide an emotional outlet for residents, as well as document and collect the city’s intangible assets.


Los Angeles is known as “The City of Broken Dreams”. The city is embedded with the ideology of perfectionism, and the compressed pressure of becoming one of the perfect stars. Artists and performers come to the city pursuing their position in the entertainment industry, few dreams come true.

Los Angeles is also one of the most unaffordable cities in terms of mental health support, including consultation, therapy and psychiatrist. While the national average cost of mental therapy session is $90, the cost can jump up to $250 for the City of LA.

LA is also known as the place with most “geographically undesirable relationships”. Researches have shown that people usually define relationships outside a 30-mins-reach radius as “geographically undesirable relationships”. This term was originally used in the context of online dating, however, it reflects the correlation between the spread-out layout of the city, and the isolation of humans.

Technology Exploration

Due to the restriction of time and technological scope, some of the initial ideas are simplified and temporarily put off. The following ideas were initially proposed but didn’t get executed:
  • Physical printed receipts that give each user a unique id
  • IoT network that allows users from different ends to send and receive feedback and notes
  • LED screen that gives higher resolution feedback
  • Sound pressure sensor installed in a physical booth that allows users to yell while punching, as an additional way to express and release frustration

Making Process

Challenge and Reflection

The main challenge in designing this creative technological solution is to tackle the sensitive, versatile, highly complicated aspect of the city with the most simple technology. One thing I learned throughout the process is the trade-off between budget/time/technological limitation and high-res solution. As a designer working with technology, I learned to embrace the limitation, finding a relatively low-res production plan for the project purpose.

I want to take the feedback I have received on this project and go further with this project, in aspects of scope and quality:
  • Improve the user interface design, to the point where no verbal explanation is needed for someone to understand how this decision works. This involves instructions, physical components setup, as well as embedded locations.
  • Build a larger database for messages. Pay more attention to the sensitivity and quality of the notes. Reflect and engage in different contexts that users may come from.
  • Reflect on the creative choices that I have made for data visualization. Explore the possibility of color usage and the involvement of texts.
  • Observe and document at locations where the device is designed for. Explore possible locations that were not initially intended and make adjustments.

IoT. Data Visualization. Physical Computing.
#MicroPython #esp32 #3DModeling #3DPrinting
Project Duration: 6 weeks.