Play Peek-A-Boo With Blind Spot


You’re at a concert, and a car filled with balloons is in a glass box. As you approach the box, vertical blinds close to block the view directly in front of you. You move left, more blinds close to block your view. The blinds follow your every move, ensuring you can’t get a close up view of the car inside. You’ve just met Blind Spot, an interactive art installation by [Brendan Matkin].

Blind Spot was presented at Breakerhead, an incredible arts and engineering event which takes place every September in Calgary, Canada. Blind Spot consists of a car inside a large wooden box. Windows allow a view into the box, though there are 96 vertical blinds just behind the glass. The vertical blinds are individually controlled by hobby servos. The servos are wired to six serial servo controllers, all of which are controlled by an Arduino.

A PC serves as Blind Spot’s brain. For sensors, 6 wide-angle webcams connect to a standard Windows 7 machine. Running 6 webcams is not exactly a standard configuration. To handle this,  [Brendan] switched the webcams to friendly names in the windows registry. The webcam images are read by a Processing sketch. The sketch scans the images and determines which of the 96 blinds to close. The code for Blind Spot is available on github.

32 thoughts on “Play Peek-A-Boo With Blind Spot

      1. Yep – all art is useless. All those people that make films, music, movies and paintings should stop and do something useful.

        Architects should work on making the most efficient, strongest, cheapest buildings and not care at all about aesthetics.

        Barbers should just have a set of clippers to cut hair down to the pre-determined optimal length.

        Don’t even get me started on clothing….

          1. It is as useful, and the lack of usefulness was the original complaint. It’s silly to complain about usefulness when it comes to art and/or entertainment. Most of what we do in the first world countries are fairly “useless” for a short sighted/narrow meaning of useful.

          2. Depends what you mean. Since the invention of photography, being able to paint something that accurately resembles a real-life subject is no longer in as much demand, and certainly not where anything new or interesting is happening. Since some point in the late Victorian era, artists have experimented with all sorts of things, meaning, representation, all sorts of stuff.

            Of course, a knowledge of art has, in the past, been the mark of a “decent” person. So lots of vulgar idiots, as a cheap way of buying credibility, will buy any old shite, and with the masturbatory nonsense that’s a lot of contemporary art, there’s no shortage of providers for invisible fine clothes.

            Perhaps when an artist says “it means whatever you want it to mean”, he actually believes it. If he does, then he’s only parroting what his teacher told him. It’s like psychics. The stupid ones believe the rubbish they talk. The smart ones know it for the bullshit it is, and exploit the endless supply of idiots with too much money.

            Unfortunately this is much the same way stock markets work. So “art” as an “investment” occurs, with the worst of both worlds helping it slide along.

            Some contemporary artists are good. There’s a lot of bullshitters out there who get by with sheer gall and knowing the right people. But that’s hardly unique to art, is it?

          3. @Greenaum
            “Perhaps when an artist says “it means whatever you want it to mean”, he actually believes it.”

            There are in fact artists who make pieces that are deliberately ambiguous in carefully chosen ways to make the viewer an unwitting participant in the creative process.

            There are also artists who just say that’s what they did as a smoke screen for not having anything to say. These are in fact more common. Just wanted to point out (to others, since you’re probably aware) that it isn’t *always* a sign of a bullshit artist, just usually.

        1. The wall didn’t work? I’m disappointed. You could have said – “The existentialism in parallels of the futility of one dimensional being” I just see a load of jerky blinds in front of a car. Novelty value, once seen swiftly forgotten.

  1. No details on how he got 6 webcams to work, you cant put more than one webcam on a USB bus, most PC’s come with only 2 busses, so how did he get 4 USB cards in the computer to make up for the other 4 cameras.

    1. I’m not so sure about that one on a bus thing.
      Plus he’s doing a registry hack.

      I know it is a pain though to get things like that to work on windows, and it very often requires registry hacks or even changing the EPROM VID_ID to get things to work with more than one USB device of a similar nature.
      And then to make out which is which is as said in the article a pain too, for instance I have 3 devices that are identified as ‘camera’ in windows, but now I can’t get OpenCV to work right since it insists using the wrong one.
      I’m sure it’ll all be sorted in windows 400 though.. maybe.

    2. Depends on the webcams.

      I had some cheap webcams that would claim more than half the bandwidth of the USB bus, no matter what resolution they were running at and how much bandwidth they actually needed. So indeed, I couldn’t put more than one on the bus (until I hacked my Linux kernel to ignore the USB bandwidth constraints).

      1. The close to $100 webcams do hardware MP4 compression, so that alleviates the connection a lot I imagine.
        It’s a bit odd though that you can buy cheap cameras for something like $20 with battery and SD slot and everything which do have hardware compression (showing you can bake it in $3 chips), but the world of webcams reserves that for the deluxe models.
        Webcams really run behind the rest of the techworld by a decade or two, or three..

        1. I would say most USB webcams are used for video conferencing (e.g. skype). These programs have their own video compression so the webcam delivering compressed frames would mean the host PC has to decode the frames and re-encode them for absolutely no benefit to the user.

          Some cheap cams do offer mjpeg, I think you can get 720p down to below 15MB/s depending on the jpeg quality, so might be able to get 4 on a bus.

          I wonder if a USB 3.0 bus still have the same 480Mb/s for all USB2.0 devices on it?

  2. Interesting in its failure to transport the original concept. Rather than blocking the interaction with the item behind the blinds, the blinds themselves become the object of interaction.

  3. I have a naked women holding balloons standing here in my office – scroll down to see a live cam view.

    Nope, not going to let you do it.

    Gotcha, It’s ART (yeah for stupid nonsense in the name of useless art).

  4. Saw this installation at our first Beakerhead festival here in Calgary last September. Wasn’t really sure what Blind Spot was until I read about it online. Beakerhead was cool. Looking forward to the 2nd annual later this year.

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