The Hands Up Audio Recorder is a small, discreet audio recorder that is hidden in the pocket of convertible gloves, and is triggered by the user raising his hands above his head. Class of 2016 student Souvik Paul created the recorder for his final project in Becky Stern’s Making Studio class in the Products of Design MFA Program. The recorder was designed by Souvik in response to the growing concerns about police brutality and, more broadly, the nature of policing in America after the death of Eric Garner.
The audio recorder is triggered by an accelerometer that can sense when the user’s hands are above his head, and is powered by a small Lithium-ion battery that is rechargeable through microUSB. Once the accelerometer is triggered, the microcontroller at the heart of this project, an Adafruit Pro Trinket, begins to sample audio through a small microphone, and writes it down to a microSD card, and blinks on a green LED. Once the user is in a safe space, or is no longer being harassed, he can then turn off the recording by pressing a button on the circuit. Souvik hoped that storing information in a discreet, hidden manner gives victims of police violence a small chance at recourse when their rights have been violated.
"There are systemic forces at work that unduly favor those in positions of power. Because police officers are given more power to yield, they must be held to a higher standard."
Though requiring the use of two micro controllers to meet the technical requirements of the circuit, Souvik intentionally kept the recorder small enough to conceal on the user’s wrist or hand without detection. Once he finished making the device, Souvik made the instructions for making the recorder public on Instructables.com. “I wanted anyone to be able to make this device if they felt like they had a genuine need for it," says Souvik, adding that, “tales of abuse based on race or religion are all too common in the news today. Regardless of the outcome of any specific case, police abuse does exist; my hope is to counter abuse with accountability. If abusive police officers can’t assume impunity for their actions, they are more likely to act within accordance of the law.”
"The project was never intended to cast a negative light on each and every police officer in the United States," Souvik hastens to add. "There are many officers who go to work everyday and risk their lives in the line of duty. This project isn't meant to denounce their actions. At the same time, there are enough officers who abuse their power that it isn't just a statistical anomaly—there are systemic forces at work that unduly favor those in positions of power. Because police officers are given more power to wield, they must be held to a higher standard.
"...My hope is to counter abuse with accountability."
"Regardless of the circumstances around a single case, there exists compelling evidence suggesting that all is not well with policing in America—despite the efforts of hundreds and thousands good police officers. That is the reason this project exists, and it is not intended as a wholesale dismissal of the good that good police officers can do.
Below are some process images from the making of the Hands Up Audio Recorder along with a circuit diagram. Learn more about Souvik's work at SouvikPaul.com.