Pandemic Gives Passersby A Window On Cyborg Control

What’s this? Another fabulous creation from [Niklas Roy] and [Kati Hyyppä] that combines art and electronics with our zeitgeist and a lot of recycled bits and bobs? You got it. Their workshop in eastern Berlin used to be a retail shop and has a large display window as a result. This seems perfect for a pair of artists in a pandemic, because they can communicate with the community through the things they display in the window. Most recently, it was this interactive cyborg baby we are choosing to call Cybaby.

You might recognize Cybaby as one of the very hackable Robosapien robots, but with a baby doll head. (It also has a single red eye that really pulls its look together.) In the window, Cybaby comes alive and toddles around against a backdrop that grew and evolved over several weeks this spring and summer. Passersby were able to join the network and control Cybaby from outside with their smartphone to make it walk around, press various buttons that change its environment, and trigger a few sensors here and there. Robosapien has been around for about 20 years, so there is already Arduino code out there that essentially simulates its R/C signals. [Niklas] and [Kati] used a NodeMCU (ESP12-E) to send pulses to the IR input of the robot.

Back on the zany zeitgeist front, there’s a hair salon, a convenience store, and a nightclub for dancing that requires a successful trip through the testing center first (naturally). Oh, and there’s a lab next door to the nightclub that can’t be accessed by Cybaby no matter what it tries or how it cries. Check it out after the break.

There’s a dearth of Robosapien posts for some reason, so here’s what [Niklas] and [Kati] had in their window before the World of Cybaby — a really cool pen plotter that prints out messages sent by people walking by.

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Nixie Robot Head with LED eyes and retro-futuristic design

Artful Nixie Bot Sculpture Sees, Thinks, And Talks

When [Tavis] and his father were inspired to lend their talents to building a robot sculpture, they split the duties. [Tavis]’ father built a robot head, and [Tavis] utilized designs old and new to breathe life into their creation.

Many a hardware hacker has been inspired by robotic art over the years. Whether it’s the vivid descriptions by the likes of Asimov and Clarke, the magnificent visuals from the formative 1927 film Metropolis, or the frantic arm-waving Robot from Lost In Space, the robots of Science Fiction have impelled many to bring their own creations to life.

For [Travis]’s creation, Two rare Russian Nixie Tubes in the forehead convey what’s on the robot’s mind, while dual 8×8 LED matrices from Adafruit give the imagination a window to the binary soul. A sound board also from Adafruit gives voice to the automaton, speaking wistful words in a language known only to himself.

A DC to DC converter raises the LiPo supplied 3.7v to the necessary 170v for the Nixies, and a hidden USB-C port charges the battery once its two-hour life span has expired. Two custom Nixie driver boards are each host to an Arduino Pro Micro, and [Tavis] has made the PCB design available for those wishing to build their own Nixie projects.

As you can see in the video below the break, the results are nothing short of mesmerizing!

Of course, we’re no strangers to robots here at Hackaday. Perhaps we can interest you in a drink created by the industrial-grade Robotic Bartender while you consider the best way to Stop the Robot Uprising. And remember, if you spot any awesome hacks, let us know via the Tip Line!

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Building An Army Of Faux Cameras In The Name Of Art

After taking mental note of the number of surveillance cameras pointed at him while standing in line at the local Home Depot, [Mac Pierce] was inspired to create A Scanner Darkly. The art installation uses beams of light projected by mock security cameras to create a dot-matrix character display on the opposing wall, which slowly blinks out US surveillance laws and regulations.

[Mac] has put together an extensive behind the scenes look at how he created A Scanner Darkly, which among other things covers the incredible time and effort that went into producing the fifteen identical cameras used to project the 3×5 grid. Early on he decided on 3D printing each one, as it would give him complete control over the final result. But given their considerable size, it ended up taking 230 hours and 12 kilograms of PLA filament to print out all the parts. It took a further 55 hours to sand and paint the camera housings, to make sure they didn’t actually look like they’d been 3D printed.

Internally, each camera has an off-the-shelf LED flashlight that’s had its power button rigged up to an ESP8266. Once they’ve been manually pointed to the appropriate spot on the wall, [Mac] can turn each camera’s spotlight on and off over WiFi. Rather than rely on the gallery’s infrastructure, all of the cameras connect to the ESP32 M5Stack that serves as the central controller via ESP-Now.

From there, it was just a matter of writing some code that would load a text document from the SD card, convert the current character into a 3×5 array, and then command the appropriate cameras to turn their lights on or off. [Mac] has not only provided the STL files for the 3D printed camera, but the client and server Arduino code to control the lights. Combined with his excellent documentation, this makes A Scanner Darkly something of a viral art piece; as anyone with the time and appropriate tools can either duplicate the installation or use it as a base for something new.

While some will no doubt argue that [Mac] could have completed this project far faster had he just modified some commercial dummy cameras, it’s important to remember that as an artist, he had a very specific look in mind for A Scanner Darkly. This project is a perfect example of how a creator’s passion can take an idea to new heights, and we think the end result proves it’s worth the time and sweat to put in the extra effort.

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“MORPH” LED Ball Is A There-Is-No-Spoon, Reality-Bending Art Installation

Marvelously conceived and exquisitely executed, this huge ball made up of hexagon tiles combines the best of blinky LEDs and animatronics into one amorphic ball.

The creation of [Nicholas Perillo] of Augmentl along with [MindBuffer], full details of the “morph v2” project have not yet been published. However, some tantilizing build progress is documented on [Nicholas’] Insta — most especially through the snapshots in the story thread spanning the last seven months. The scope of the project is brought into focus with time lapse video of hundreds of heat-set inserts, bundles of twisted wire, a pile of 1500 sliding rails, cases full of custom-order stepper motors, and thick cuts of copper bus bars to feed power up the shaft and out to the panels.

The demo video after the break is mesmerizing, shot by [nburdy] during a demo at MotionLab Berlin where it was built. Each hex tile is backed by numerous LEDs and a stepper motor assembly that lets it move in and out from the center of the ball. Somehow it manages to look as though it’s flowing, as they eye doesn’t pick up spaces opening between tiles as they are extended.

The Twitter thread fills in some of the juicy details: “486 stepper motors, 86,000 LEDs and a 5 channel granular synth engine (written by @_hobson_ no less, in @rustlang of course).” The build also includes speakers mounted in the core of the ball, hidden behind the moving LED hexes. The result is an artistic assault on reality, as the highly coordinated combinations of light, sound, and motion make this feel alive, otherwordly, or simply a glitch in the matrix. Watching the renders of what animations will look like, then seeing it on the real thing drives home the point that practical effects can still snap us out of our 21st-century computer-generated graphics trance.

It’s relatively easy to throw thousands of LEDs into a project these days, as PCBA just applies robots to the manufacturing problem. But motion remains a huge challenge beyond a handful of moving parts. But the Times Square billboard from a few years ago and the Morph ball both show it’s worth it.

As you’ve guessed from the name, this is the second Morph ball the team has collaborated on. Check out details of v1, a beach ball sized moving LED ball.

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Receipt Printers End It All In Moving Art Piece

Art is something that is always hard to classify, but by and large is most celebrated when it stimulates an emotional response for the intended audience. We’d say [Alexander Miller] achieved that in spades, with his elegant piece The Emergence and Decay of Computation.

An installation piece done for The School for Poetic Computation’s 2019 spring showcase, it consists of a series of receipt printers suspended from a height by their own paper. The thermal printers output a pattern from a cellular automata — a mathematical simulation that generates patterns that emerge from initial conditions, of which Conway’s Game of Life is perhaps the most popular. Fed data by an attached Raspberry Pi, as printing continues, the printers gradually lower themselves into a tank of water, permanently killing the hardware.

Watching a proud, brave printer slowly work itself into a watery grave is a sobering experience to any lover of stout commercial hardware, and one we won’t soon forget. What a shame to see them sacrificed so. We love a good art piece around these parts, after all. Especially when the hardware can be used in another project once the excitement of this one has waned. Video after the break. Continue reading “Receipt Printers End It All In Moving Art Piece”

Lessons Learned From An Art Installation Build

Art installations are an interesting business, which more and more often tend to include electronic or mechanical aspects to their creation. Compared to more mainstream engineering, things in this space are often done quite a bit differently. [Jan Enning-Kleinejan] worked on an installation called Prendre la parole, and shared the lessons learned from the experience.

The installation consisted of a series of individual statues, each with an LED light fitted. Additionally, each statue was fitted with a module that was to play a sound when it detected visitors in proximity. Initial designs used mains power, however for this particular install battery power would be required.

Arduinos, USB power banks and ultrasonic rangefinders were all thrown into the mix to get the job done. DFplayer modules were used to run sound, and Grove System parts were used to enable everything to be hooked up quickly and easily. While this would be a strange choice for a production design, it is common for art projects to lean heavily on rapid prototyping tools. They enable inexperienced users to quickly and effectively whip up a project that works well and at low cost.

[Jan] does a great job of explaining some of the pitfalls faced in the project, as well as reporting that the installation functioned near-flawlessly for 6 months, running 8 hours a day. We love to see a good art piece around these parts, and we’ve likely got something to your tastes – whether you’re into harmonicas, fungus, or Markov chains.

Artistic Attempt To Send Digital Signals Via Fungus

Art projects can fundamentally be anything you like, as long as you say they’re art at the end of it all. They don’t always work, or work well, but they often explore new ideas. Often, artists working on installations fall back on similar tools and techniques used by the maker community. [Julian] is no exception, and his Biotic Explorers work has many touchstones that will be familiar to the Hackaday set.

The device attempted to send signals via Mycellium fungus.

The Biotic Explorers Research Group is a broad art project, involving the creation of a fictitious scientific association. [Julian] created imaginary scientists, reports, and research to flesh out this world. The project culminates in the development of a prototype communications system, which uses pH sensors at either end of a fungal network in soil to send messages.

Liquids are applied to change the pH of the system, which can be picked up at the other end of the soil bed. The pH levels are read as digital signals, with pH levels either side of neutral reading as high and low bits. pH sensors can be expensive, so [Julian] chose the cheapest available, and tapped into their LCD display lines to read their output into an microcontroller. The system displays data using commonly available OLED displays, and hobby servo motors are used to control the dispensing of liquid.

Due to time constraints, [Julian] was unable to get the system fully functional. Sending data as pH levels through fungus proved unreliable and slow, but we suspect with further development, the system could be improved. Regardless, the project serves as an excellent example of the work that goes into a functional art installation. The thesis sheds further detail on the development of the project.

We’re no strangers to an art installation here – whether it’s Markov chains or glowing balloons.