Algorithm Turns PCBs Into Art

Many of us have held a circuit board up to a strong light to get a sense for how many layers of circuitry it might contain. [alongruss] did this as well, but, unlike us, he saw art.

We’ve covered some art PCBs before. These, for the most part, were about embellishing the traces in some way. They also resulted in working circuits. [alongruss]’s work focuses more on the way light passes through the FR4: the way the silkscreen adds an interesting dimension to the painting, and how the tin coating reflects light.

To prove out and play with his algorithm he started with GIMP. He ran the Mona Lisa through a set of filters until he had layers of black and white images that could be applied to the layers of the circuit board. He ordered a set of boards from Seeed Studio and waited.

They came back a success! So he codified his method into Processing code. If you want to play with it, take a look at his GitHub.

2,000 LEDs on Fire

What’s 18 feet tall, 12 feet wide, has 2,000 LEDs and turbine-driven blast furnaces? Believe it or not, it is a piece of kinetic sculpture created by [Therm] (a collective, not a person) for Burning Man 2016. The project is about 60% salvage, has a Raspberry Pi 3 helping its three human operators, and took a team of 30 about 9 months to complete.

The Raspberry Pi drives LED using fadecandy. You can see a video of the sculpture (three giant moths, to be exact) and a video about fadecandy, below. (We’ve covered a subtler fadecandy project before if you want to see a different take on it.)

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Pulling Music Out Of The Airwaves

RADIO WONDERLAND is a one-man band with many famous unintentional collaborators. [Joshua Fried]’s shows start off with him walking in carrying a boombox playing FM radio. He plugs it into his sound rig, tunes around a while, and collects some samples. Magic happens, he turns an ancient Buick steering wheel, and music emerges from the resampled radio cacophony.

It’s experimental music, which is secret art-scene-insider code for “you might not like it”, but we love the hacking. In addition to the above-mentioned steering wheel, he also plays a rack of shoes with drumsticks. If we had to guess, we’d say rotary encoders and piezos. All of this is just input for his computer programs which take care of the sampling, chopping, and slicing of live radio into dance music. It’s good enough that he’s opened for [They Might Be Giants].

Check out the videos (embedded below) for a taste of what a live show was like. There are definitely parts where the show is a little slow, but they make it seem cooler when a beat comes together out of found Huey Lewis. We especially like the “re-esser” routine that hones in on the hissier parts of speech to turn them into cymbals. And if you scan the crowd in the beginning, you can find a ten-years-younger [Limor Fried] and [Phil Torrone].

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Vote With Your Feet

Gamifying life is silly, fun, and a great way to interact with those strangers who you pass everyday. Here’s one example that might just pop up along your next walk to work. It’s a way to take a very unscientific straw poll on any topic — you won’t even have to use your hands to cast a ballot.

A group called [Vote With Your Feet] has come up with a novel way of casting ballots. Simply walk down the sidewalk and through one of two doorways, each labeled with either side of a dichotomy. Each doorway is able to count the number of people that pass through it, so any issue imaginable can be polled. They already did vim vs emacs (59 to 27),  and we’d like to see Keynes vs Hayek, or even Ovaltine vs Nesquik. Users can send the machine new issues for the masses to vote on, so the entertainment is quite literally limited only by your imagination.

thumbThe physical build is well documented. Since this is used outside, the choice of a flipdot display (of course always fun to play with) is perfect for this high-contrast in any level of light. Each doorway has a break-beam sensor which is monitored by the Raspberry Pi driving the overhead display (here’s code for it all if you want to dig in).

The point of this art installation like this is to get people to interact with their environment in a novel way, which this project has accomplished exceptionally well. In 3 days, they registered over 10,000 votes which are viewable on their website. If you have a project in mind that calls for data visualization you might want to keep this in your back pocket.

We have also seen other ways that doorways can count people outside of voting, if you’re looking for any inspiration yourself.

FingerRing is Simplest Multichannel Mixer

It’s hard to make an audio mixer with any less technology than FingerRing (YouTube video, embedded below). We’re pretty sure that [Sergey Kasich] isn’t going to get a patent on this one. But what he does get is our admiration for pushing a simple idea far enough that it’s obviously useful.

The basic idea is transmitting signals using the human body as a conductor. What [Sergey] does is lay out multiple sound sources and sinks on the table, and then play them like a mixer made musical instrument. Pressing harder reduces the resistance, and makes the sound louder. Connecting to two sources mixes them (in you). Watch the video — he gets a lot of mileage out of this one trick.

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All Your Displays Are Belong to Us

Artist and Hackaday reader [Blair Neal] wrote in with his incredible compendium of “alternative” displays. (Here as PDF.) From Pepper’s Ghost to POV, he’s got it all covered, with emphasis on their uses in art.

There’s an especially large focus on 3D displays. Projecting onto screens, droplets of water, spinning objects, and even plasma combustion are covered. But so are the funny physical displays: flip-dots, pin-cushions, and even servo-driven “pixels”.

Flavien Théry’s La Porte 
Flavien Théry’s La Porte

We really liked the section on LCDs with modified polarization layers — we’ve seen some cool hacks using that gimmick, but the art pieces he dredged up look even better. Makes us want to take a second look at that busted LCD screen in the basement.

We’re big fans of the bright and blinky, so it’s no surprise that [Blair] got a bunch of his examples from these very pages. And we’ve covered [Blair]’s work as well: both his Wobbulator and his “Color a Sound” projects. Hackaday: your one-stop-shop for freaky pixels.

[Blair]’s list looks pretty complete to us, but there’s always more out there. What oddball displays are missing? What’s the strangest or coolest display you’ve ever seen?

The Cicada: A Parasite Art Piece With Commitment Issues

How often do you think deeply about the products around you? How about those you owned five years ago? Ten? The Cicada — brainchild of [Daniel Kerris] — is an art piece that aims to have the observer reflect on consumer culture, buyer’s remorse, and wanting what we cannot have.

The Cicada consists of an ultrasonic sensor feeding data to a Raspberry pi which — calculating the distance of an approaching human — either speeds up or slows down a servo motor connected to a General Electric Walkman’s cassette speed potentiometer. Upon detecting someone approaching, The Cicada begins to loop the chorus of Celine Dion’s “I Will Always Love You”. As you move closer, the tape speed slows, and there is a transition from love at first sight to nightmarish drawl as the music slows.

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