Tag Archives: art installation

SeeMore for World Maker Faire 2015

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We’re gearing up to go to World Maker Faire in at the New York Hall of Science on September 26 and 27 – if you’re going to be there, please come and say hi at the Raspberry Pi booth. We’ll have demos, activities, some little bits and bobs to give away, and much more. Eben’s going to giving a presentation too over the weekend, so come along if you’ve any questions you’d like to ask him.


World Maker Faire is always a blast. If last year’s anything to go by, we’re hoping to see more than 200,000 of you; and every year, there seem to be more and more Raspberry Pis there driving makers’ projects.

This year we’re particularly excited about seeing this exhibit from Sam Blanchard, an Assistant Professor of Sculpture at Virginia Tech.

SeeMore is part kinetic sculpture, part giant parallel computer, built with 256 Raspberry Pis. Each Pi is mounted on a servo arm, which moves depending on how much individual computation the Pi in question is doing. It’s a brilliant visual representation of how a parallel computer carries out many calculations simultaneously, breaking down a large problem into many small ones which can be worked on at the same time; this is the architecture modern supercomputers use, and SeeMore makes that architecture very easy to understand.

There’s a touchscreen interface that visitors can use to set SeeMore tasks. Sam is engineering those tasks to be specific to the venue, so you’ll see SeeMore calculating things which have something to do with World Maker Faire itself.

Thanks Sam – we’ll come and say hi when we’re not on stand duty!

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Quaver, the analogue looping piano

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Music hacks are my favourite hacks of all, and this one had me bounding around the office with the video below playing on my laptop so I could share it with people yesterday. Meet Quaver, the multiplayer piano.

With a Raspberry Pi, some magnetic pickups, and the open-source Sooper Looper (which I am downloading as soon as I have finished writing this post), Mike and Sean from MajorMega hacked an old upright piano into an instrument that can loop up to four separate tracks, and then upload your results to the internet to be listened to when you get home.


I learned something new today: you can buy what are basically super-long guitar pickups (as seen in the picture above), which will work in pianos. I am full of ideas (for other people’s pianos – mine’s staying un-hacked).


Here are the electronic guts of the finished instrument: the Pi is driving buttons, LEDs, a display, those speakers on either side, the pickups and a fair old whack of software. Mike says:

  • Jack takes care of all audio routing from the sound card to SooperLooper and back
  • node-OSC sends commands to SooperLooper.
  • onoff to control LEDs and listen for button presses.
  • node-serialport was initially used to control the display, however when compiling a custom kernel (more on that later) I could not get it to compile correctly. I ended up just using echo to issue commands directly to /dev/ttyUSB0
  • lame for encoding the SooperLooper’s wav output to mp3
  • ffmpeg to concatenate copies of the mp3 loop into a longer “song”.
  • Parse to handle file uploading and make it easy for us to produce a front-end on the web.

This is all part of Lancaster’s Keys for the City project, where pianos are decorated and left around the city for the public to play; Quaver is the project’s stand-out this year. (And not just because of the artwork on the outside.)


If you’re in Lancaster, you’ll find Quaver in the food court at the Park City shopping mall.

You can find a long and fantastically informative post about the build at Sean and Mike’s website; there’s also a less wordy, more picture-y Imgur page on the project. Mike, Sean – please drop us a line if you’re doing anything else with the Raspberry Pi. We love hearing about this stuff.


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After Dark

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Galleries are forbidden places once the lights are turned out at night. After Dark was a prize-winning installation from The Workers, a studio in East London, which wandered the empty Tate Modern and Tate Britain at night in London last year. With Raspberry Pi for brains.

You can learn more about the project at AfterDark.io. We wish we’d known about it when it was happening, but happily, there’s a chance that the robots will reappear in another gallery in the future; we’ll be keeping an eye on their website in case that happens.

(Space geeks should watch this one to the end; the first operator of the system once it went live was a certain Commander Hadfield.)


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