[Ben Kuper] is a developer with a history of working on art installations, and had hit upon a common problem often cited by artists. When creating installations involving light, sound, and motion, they often spend too much time on the nuts and bolts of electronics, programming, and so on. Such matters are a huge time sink with a steep learning curve and oftentimes just a plain distraction from the actual artistic intent they’re trying to focus upon. [Ben] has been working for a few years on a software tool, Chataigne which is designed as the glue between various software tools and hardware interfaces, enabling complex control of the application using simple building blocks.
The tool aims to act as a central controller, kind of like the conductor of an orchestra, pulling in and conditioning inputs from sensors, running state machines, and sending the results back out to whatever the installation needs, be they lighting controllers via DMX, or moving stepper motors around with an attached Arduino, the tool seems to be flexible enough to control many of the things one would typically find in an art installation. The user base is already in the multiple thousands, with a community of third-party developers adding more functionality as per their own particular needs.
The project looks polished and easy to use, but it seems that the vast majority of the tutorial videos are in French (like this example controlling LEDs from a MIDI controller as an input), so that might slow down adoption a little for those of us with little more than high school French, some thirty years in the past. That said, the documentation looks good, so most interested parties should be able to figure out how to drive it.
Art and hacking go hand in hand, due to the nature of one-off installations, and the frugality of your average artist. We’ve seen a few fun hacks, like this neat optomechanical sequencer. But can the hacks themselves be creative?
Update: [Ben] points out that there is a English language tutorial video that covers most topics.