Tag Archives: art

The Heart of Maker Faire

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We at the Raspberry Pi Foundation find it incredibly rewarding to help people make and share things they love. It’s amazing to be part of an incredibly creative community of makers. And we’re not the only ones who feel this way: for this year’s Maker Faire UK, the team over at NUSTEM created the Heart of Maker Faire, a Pi-powered art installation that is a symbol of this unique community. And to be perfectly frank, it’s bloody gorgeous.

The Heart of Maker Faire

NUSTEM’s new installation for Maker Faire UK 2017, held on 1st & 2nd April at the Centre for Life, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Visitors wrote notes about things they love, and sealed them in jars. They then read their heart rates, and used the control boxes to associate their jar and heart rate with a space on the shelves.

A heart for the community

NUSTEM is a STEM outreach organisation from Northumbria University, and the makers there are always keen to build interactive projects that get people excited about technology. So at this year’s Faire, attendees passing their installation were invited to write down something close to their heart, put that note in a jar, and measure their heart rate. Then they could connect their heart rate, via a QR code, to a space on a shelf lined with LEDs. Once they placed the jar in their space, the LEDs started blinking to imitate their heart beat. With this art piece, the NUSTEM team wants to say something about “how we’re all individuals, but about our similarities too”.

NUSTEM on Twitter

Still beating. Heart of #MakerFaireUK

Making the heart beat

This is no small build – it uses more than 2,000 NeoPixel LEDs, as well as five Raspberry Pis, among other components. Two Pi 3s are in charge of registering people’s contributions and keeping track of their jars. A Pi Zero W acts as a central hub, connecting its bigger siblings via WiFi, and storing a MySQL database of the jars’ data. Finally, two more Pi 3s control the LEDs of the Heart via a script written in Processing. The NUSTEM team has made the code available here for you “to laugh at” (their words, not mine!)

Heart of Maker Faire shelf

The heart, ready to be filled with love

A heart for art

Processing is an open-source programming language used to create images, graphs, and animations. It can respond to keyboard and mouse input, so you can write games with it as well. Moreover, it runs on the Pi, and you can use it to talk to the Pi’s GPIO pins, as the Heart of Maker Faire team did. Hook up buttons, sensors, and LEDs, and get ready to create amazing interactive pieces of art! If you’d like to learn more, read Matt’s blog post, or watch the talk he gave about Processing at our fifth birthday party earlier this year.

Matt Richardson: Art with Processing on the Raspberry Pi – Raspberry Pi Birthday Event 2017 – Talks

Matt Richardson: Art with Processing on the Raspberry Pi Sunday 5th March 2017 Raspberry Pi Birthday Event 2017 Filmed and edited by David and Andrew Ferguson. This video is not an official video published by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. No copyright infringement intended.

To help you get started, we’re providing a free learning resource introducing you to the basics of Processing. We’d love to see what you create, so do share a link to your masterworks in the comments!

World Maker Faire

We’ll be attending World Maker Faire in New York on the 23rd and 24th of September. Will you be there?

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Processing: making art with code

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This column is from The MagPi issue 56. You can download a PDF of the full issue for free, or subscribe to receive the print edition in your mailbox or the digital edition on your tablet. All proceeds from the print and digital editions help the Raspberry Pi Foundation achieve its charitable goals.

One way we achieve our mission at the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to find an intersection between someone’s passion and computing. For example, if you’re a young person interested in space, our Astro Pi programme is all about getting your code running on the International Space Station. If you like music, you can use Sonic Pi to compose songs with code. This month, I’d like to introduce you to some interesting work happening at the intersection between computing and the visual arts.

Image of Dead Presidents by Mike Brondbjerg art made with Processing

Mike Brondbjerg’s Dead Presidents uses Processing to generate portraits.

Processing is a programming language and development environment that sits perfectly at that intersection. It enables you to use code to generate still graphics, animations, or interactive applications such as games. It’s based on the Java programming language, and it runs on multiple platforms and operating systems. Thanks to the work of the Processing Foundation, and in particular the efforts of contributor Gottfried Haider, Processing runs like a champ on the Raspberry Pi.

Screenshot of Processing environment

When I want to communicate how cool Processing is while speaking to members of the Raspberry Pi community, I usually make this analogy: with Sonic Pi, you can use one line of code to make one note; with Processing, you can use one line of code to draw one stroke. Once you’ve figured that out, you can use computational tools such as loops, conditions, and variables to make some beautiful art.

And even though Processing is intended for use in the realm of visual arts, its capabilities can go beyond that. You can make applications that interact with the user through keyboard or mouse input. Processing also has libraries for working with network connections, files, and cameras. This means that you don’t just have to create artwork with Processing. You can also use it for almost anything you need to code.

Physical process

Processing is especially cool on the Raspberry Pi because there’s a library for working with the Pi’s GPIO pins. You can therefore have on-screen graphics interacting with buttons, switches, LEDs, relays, and sensors wired up to your Pi. With Processing, you could build a game that uses a custom controller that you’ve built yourself. Or you could create a piece of artwork that interacts with the user by sensing their proximity to it.

Processing screenshot

Best of all, Processing was created with learning to code in mind. It comes with lots of built-in examples, and you can use these to learn about many different programming and drawing concepts. The documentation on Processing’s website is very thorough and – as with Raspberry Pi – there’s a very supportive community around it if you run into any trouble. Additionally, the Processing development environment is powerful but also very simplified. For these reasons, it’s perfect for someone who is just getting started.

To get going with Processing on Raspberry Pi, there’s a one-line install command. You can also go to Processing.org and download pre-built Raspbian images with Processing already installed. To help you on your journey, there’s a resource for getting started with Processing. It includes a walkthrough on how to access the GPIO pins to combine physical computing and visual arts.

When you launch Processing, you will see a blank file where you can start keying in your code. Don’t let that intimidate you! All of the world’s greatest pieces of art started off as a raw slab of marble, a blob of clay, or a blank canvas. It just takes one line of code at a time to generate your own masterpiece.

Become a supporter

After this article appeared in The MagPi, the Processing Foundation put out a call for support:

We want you to be a part of this. Our work is almost entirely supported by individual one-time donations from the community. Right now we are outspending what we earn, and we have bigger plans! We want to continue all the work we’re doing and make it more accessible, more inclusive, and more responsive to the community needs.

To create lasting support for these new directions we’re starting a Membership Program. A membership is an annual donation that supports all this work and signifies your belief in it. You can do this as an individual, a studio, an educational institution, or a corporate partner. We will list your name on our members page along with all the others that help make this mission possible.

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Fly AI

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Happy 2017, everybody! We’re back in the office (for values of “we” equal to me and a cup of coffee – the rest of your friendly Comms team is still on vacation). I hope your New Year’s resolutions are still unbroken. Mine involves that coffee, which doesn’t have any sugar in it and is making January feel much bleaker than necessary. I’ll be fascinated to see how long I can keep it up.

On to the Pi stuff.

I spotted this magnificently creepy art installation from David Bowen just before Christmas, and have been looking forward to showing it to you, because I like to know I’m not the only person having specific nightmares. In this project, a Raspberry Pi AI is mothering a colony of flies: whenever if spots and correctly identifies a fly, it releases a dose of nutrients and water.

flyAI

flyAI creates a situation where the fate of a colony of living houseflies is determined by the accuracy of artificial intelligence software. The installation uses the TensorFlow machine learning image recognition library to classify images of live houseflies. As the flies fly and land in front of a camera, their image is captured.

David says: “The system is setup to run indefinitely with an indeterminate outcome.”

Which means there’s potential for an awful lot of tiny corpses.

It all sounds simple enough, but there’s something about the build – the choice of AI voice, the achingly slow process of enunciating everything it believes it might have seen before it feeds its wards…the fact that the horrible space-helmet-bubble thing is full of flies – that makes for the most unsettling project we’ve seen in a long time.

Fly AI

If you are inspired by this arthropod chamber of horrors, you can read about more of David’s projects on his blog. You’ll be delighted to learn than this is not the only one employing house-fly labourers. More power to all six of your elbows, David.

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Sisyphus: the kinetic art table

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Surely if he had been given the opportunity, Sisyphus would have engineered a way out of his eternal punishment of rolling a boulder up a hill. It’s just too bad for him that Raspberry Pi wasn’t around to help. While it’s a far cry from his arduous task, the Pi has been used to power Bruce Shapiro’s Sisyphus, a continuous and ever-changing kinetic art piece that creates unique design patterns in sand using a small metal ball.

the-sisyphus-table-1-730x548

Sisyphus is truly mesmerising. We learned this first-hand: at Maker Faire New York earlier this month, it captured the attention of not only the Raspberry Pi crew, but also thousands of attendees throughout the weekend. Sisyphus momentarily drowned out the noise and action of the Faire.

You can think of Sisyphus as a cross between an Etch A Sketch and Spirograph, except this is no toy.

Under the table is a two-motor robot (the “Sisbot”) that moves a magnet which draws a steel ball through the sand. The motors are controlled by a small Raspberry Pi computer which plays a set of path files, much like a music player plays an MP3 file.

Sisyphus

Bruce is using Kickstarter in the hope of transitioning Sisyphus from what’s currently a large art installation exhibited around the world into a beautiful piece to be enjoyed in the home, as both furniture and art.

annmarie thomas on Twitter

Sisyphus- Stunning art/furniture kickstarter (fully funded in <a day) by friend Bruce Shapiro. https://t.co/ijxHQ0fYb5

Bruce says:

Of all works I made, Sisyphus stood out – it was my first CNC machine to break out of the studio/shop. No longer tasked with cutting materials to be used in making sculptures, it was the sculpture itself. It was also unique in another way – I wanted to live with it in my home. I’ve spent the last three years perfecting a home version that’s beautiful, user-friendly, near-silent, and that will run for years.

Like most great Maker Faire projects, it’s centred around a wonderful community. The collaboration and access to tools in Shapiro’s local makerspace helped develop the final design seen today. While Shapiro’s original makerspace has since closed its doors, Shapiro and his fellow members opened up what is now Nordeast Makers. It’s where the production for Sisyphus will take place.

Sisyphus

The Kickstarter products come in three styles: an end table, and two different coffee tables. You might want to find another place to display your coffee table books, though, so as to keep Sisyphus’s designs visible…

kickstarter-products

This Kickstarter won’t be running forever, so be sure to pledge if you love the sound of the Sisyphus.

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Human Sensor

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In collaboration with Professor Frank Kelly and the environmental scientists of King’s College London, artist Kasia Molga has created Human Sensor – a collection of hi-tech costumes that react to air pollution within the wearer’s environment.

Commissioned by Invisible Dust, an organisation supporting artists and scientists to create pieces that explore environmental and climate change, Molga took to the streets of Manchester with her army of Human Sensors to promote the invisible threat of air pollution in the industrial city.

Human Sensor

Angry little clouds of air pollution

Each suit is equipped with a small aerosol monitor that links to a Raspberry Pi and GPS watch. These components work together to collect pollution data from their location. Eventually, the suits will relay data back in real time to a publicly accessible website; for now, information is stored and submitted at a later date.

The Pi also works to control the LEDs within the suit, causing them to flash, pulse, and produce patterns and colours that morph in reaction to air conditions as they are read by the monitor.

Human Sensor

All of the lights…

The suit’s LED system responds to the presence of pollutant particles in the air, changing the colour of the white suit to reflect the positive or negative effect of the air around it. Walk past the grassy clearing of a local park, and the suit will turn green to match it. Stand behind the exhaust of a car, and you’ll find yourself pulsating red.

It’s unsurprising that the presence of the suits in Manchester was both well received and a shock to the system for the city’s residents. While articles are beginning to surface regarding the impact of air pollution on children’s mental health, and other aspects of the detrimental health effects of pollution have long been known, it’s a constant struggle for scientists to remind society of the importance of this invisible threat. By building a physical reminder, using the simple warning colour system of red and green, it’s hard not to take the threat seriously.

“The big challenge we have is that air pollution is mostly invisible. Art helps to makes it visible. We are trying to bring air pollution into the public realm. Scientific papers in journals work on one level, but this is a way to bring it into the street where the public are.” – Andrew Grieve, Senior Air Quality Analyst, King’s College

 

Human Sensor

23-29 July 2016 in Manchester Performers in hi tech illuminated costumes reveal changes in urban air pollution. Catch the extraordinary performances created by media artist Kasia Molga with Professor Frank Kelly from King’s College London. The hi-tech illuminated costumes reflect the air pollution you are breathing on your daily commute.

Human Sensor is supported by the Wellcome Trust’s Sustaining Excellence Award and by Arts Council England; Invisible Dust is working in partnership with Manchester, European City of Science.

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Autocomplete poetry

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Raspberry Pi integrated into the world of art. I hadn’t come across much of this before, and I like it a lot. As a self-proclaimed ‘artist of stuff’, it’s always exciting to see something arty that calls to the maker inside. With Glaciers, NYC-based Zach Gage has achieved exactly that.

Glaciers was an art instillation that, like the landforms from which it takes its name, slowly developed over time. I say ‘was’, but with each of its constituent pieces still running and a majority already sold, Glaciers continues indefinitely. Using forty Raspberry Pis attached to forty plainly presented Adafruit e-ink screens, Gage used Google Search’s auto-complete function to create poetry.

install4_lg

We’ve all noticed occasional funny or poignant results of the way Google tries to complete your search query for you based on the vast amount of data that passes through its search engine daily. Gage has programmed the Raspberry Pis to select the top three suggestions that follow various chosen phrases and display them on the screens. The results are striking, often moving, and usually something that most people would acknowledge as poetry, or at least poetic.

The screens refresh daily as the Pis check Google for changes and update accordingly. For some search phrases, the autocompletions can change daily; for others, it could take years. A poem you’ve had upon your wall for months on end could suddenly change unexpectedly, updating to reflect the evolving trends of user queries on the internet.

“The best paintings you can look at a thousand times and you keep seeing new things.” – Zach Gage

Glaciers is certainly an intriguing installation, with pithy observations of the vulnerability of anonymous internet users in pieces such as:

Glacier03_lg

and the (somewhat) more light-hearted:

Glacier04_lg

Zach Gage is an indie video game creator, responsible for titles such as SpellTower and the somewhat fear-inducing Lose/Lose (Space Invaders meets permanent file deletion with some 17000 files already lost to the game since launch). He’s previously used Raspberry Pis in other projects, such as his Twitter-fuelled best day ever and Fortune. I bet this isn’t the last time he does something fabulous with a Pi.

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