Interactive Visual Programming With vvvv

Did you ever feel the urge to turn the power of image processing and OCR into music? Maybe you wanted to use motion capture to illustrate the dynamic movement of a kung-fu master in stunning images like the one above?  Both projects were created with the same software.

vvvv -pronounced ‘four vee’, ‘vee four’ and sometimes even ‘veeveeveevee’- calls itself ‘a multi purpose framework’, which is as vague and correct as calling a computer ‘a device that performs calculations’. What can it do, and what does the framework look like? I’d like to show you.

Since its first release in 1998 the project has never officially left beta stage. This doesn’t mean the recent beta releases are unstable, it’s just that the people behind vvvv refrain from declaring their software ‘finished’. It also provides an excuse for some quirks, such as requiring 7-zip to unpack the binaries and the UI that takes some getting used to. vvvv requires DirectX and as such is limited to Windows.

With the bad stuff out of the way, let’s take a look what vvvv can do. First, as implied by the close relationship with DirectX, it’s really good at producing graphics. An example for interactive video is embedded below the break. With its data flow/ visual programming approach it also lends itself to rapid prototyping or live coding. Modifications to a patch, as programs are called in this context, immediately affect the output.

The name ‘patch’ harkens back to the times of analog synthesizers and working with vvvv has indeed some similarities with signal processing that will make the DSP nerds among you feel right at home.

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The Grafofon: An Optomechanical Sequencer

There are quick hacks, there are weekend projects and then there are years long journeys towards completion.  [Boris Vitazek]’s grafofon falls into the latter category. His creation can best be described as electromechanical sequencer synthesizer with a multiplayer mode.
The storage medium and interface for this sequencer is a thirteen-meter loop of paper that is mounted like a conveyor belt. Music is composed by drawing on the paper or placing objects on it. This is usually done by the audience and the fact that the marker isn’t erased make the result collaborative and incremental.
 These ‘scores’ are read by a camera and interpreted by software.This is a very vague description of this device, for a reason: the build went on over six years and both hard- and software went through several revisions in that time. It started as a trigger for MIDI notes and evolved from there.
In his write up [Boris] explains the technical aspects of each iteration. He also tells the stories of the people he met while working on the grafofon and how they influenced the build. If this look into the art world reminds you of your local hackerspace, it is because these worlds aren’t that far apart.

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Engineering and Artistry Meet an Untimely End at Burning Man

Burning Man is so many different things to so many people, that it defies neat description. For those who attend, it always seems to be a life-changing experience, for good or for ill. The story of one man’s Burning Man exhibition is a lesson in true craftsmanship and mind-boggling engineering, as well as how some events can bring out the worst in people.

For [Malcolm Tibbets], aka [the tahoeturner], Burning Man 2017 was a new experience. Having visited last year’s desert saturnalia to see his son [Andy]’s exhibition, the studio artist decided to undertake a massive display in his medium of choice — segmented woodturning. Not content to display a bamboo Death Star, [Malcolm] went big– really big. He cut and glued 31,000 pieces of redwood into rings of various shapes and sizes and built sculptures of amazing complexity, including endless tubes that knot and loop around and back into each other. Many of the sculpture were suspended from a huge steel tripod fabricated by [Andy], forming an interactive mobile and kinetic sculpture.

Alas, Burning Man isn’t all mellowness in the desert. People tried to climb the tripod, and overnight someone destroyed some of the bigger elements of the installation. [Malcolm] made a follow-up video about the vandalism, but you’ll want to watch the build video below first to truly appreciate the scale of the piece and the loss. Here’s hoping that [Malcolm]’s next display is treated with a little more respect, like this interactive oasis from BM 2016 apparently was.

Thanks to [Keith Olson] for the tip.

Robot Graffiti

There’s talk of robots and AIs taking on jobs in many different industries. Depending on how much stock you place in that, it might still be fair to say the more creative fields will remain firmly in the hands of humans, right?

Well, we may have some bad news for you. Robots are now painting our murals.

Estonian inventor [Mihkel Joala] — also working at SprayPainter — successfully tested his prototype by painting a 30m tall mural on a smokestack in Tartu, Estonia. The creative procedure for this mural is a little odd if you are used to the ordinary painting process: [Joala] first takes an image from his computer, and converts it into a coordinate grid — in this case, about 1.5 million ‘pixels’. These pixels are painted on by a little cart loaded with five colours of spray paint that are able to portray the mural’s full palette once combined and viewed at a distance. Positioning is handled by a motor at the base of the mural controlling the vertical motion in conjunction with tracks at the top and bottom which handle the horizontal motion.

For this mural, the robot spent the fourteen hours trundling up and down a set of cables, dutifully spraying the appropriate colour at such-and-such a point resulting in the image of a maiden cradling a tree and using thirty cans of spray paint in the process.

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1.5 Million Dollars Buys 850,000 LEDs and 29 Raspberry Pis

You think you like RGB LEDs? Columbus, OH art professor [Matthew Mohr] has more blinkenlove than you! His airport– convention-center-scale installation piece is an incredible 850,000 RGB LEDs wrapped around a 14-foot tall face-shaped sculpture that projection-maps participants’ faces onto the display. To capture images, there is also a purpose-built room with even illumination and a slew of Raspberry Pi cameras to take pictures of the person’s face from many angles simultaneously.

Besides looking pretty snazzy, the scale of this is just crazy. For instance, if you figure that the usual strip of 60 WS2812s can draw just about 9.6 watts full on, that scales up to 136 kW(!) for the big head. And getting the control signals right? Forgeddaboutit. Prof. [Mohr], if you’re out there, leave us some details in the comments.

(Edit: He did! And his website is back up after being DOSed. And they’re custom LEDs that are even brighter to compete with daylight in the space.)

What is it with airports and iconic LED art pieces? Does anyone really plan their stopovers to see public art? How many of you will fly through Columbus on purpose now?

Visual Futurist Syd Mead will Keynote at Hackaday Superconference

What does the future actually look like? Chances are what you see in your mind when presented with that question is heavily influence by Syd Mead. He is an industrial designer, but his body of work — which includes some of the most iconic Sci-Fi movies ever filmed — built a much more interesting job title for him: Visual Futurist.

Meet Syd Mead as he presents a keynote talk at the 2017 Hackaday Superconference this November 11 and 12 in Pasadena, California.

Philip K. Dick wondered Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, but when it came time to build those sheep and the world they live in, director Ridley Scott looked to Syd Mead to determine what the future in Blade Runner actually looked like. He invented a world, one that was actually built through the practical sets and props widely used in the days before computer graphics became the norm. Syd’s work is also seen in Star Trek: The Motion PictureAlien, and the iconic designs for the movie Tron. And his prolific work has continued to appear on the silver screen ever since, with Elysium and Tomorrowland as some of his more recent work.

How does one invent the future, even through decades of progress? That’s the role of hardware creators — to envision what we want and need tomorrow, not today or yesterday. Syd Mead is a hardware creator and his hardware has been built time and again to inspire all of us for where we’re going with technology. Take that ride along with Syd at the Hackaday Superconference. Get your tickets now.

[Main image credit: Blade Runner concept art by Syd Mead]

 

Poetry in Motion with a Sand-Dispensing Dot Matrix Printer

Hackaday gets results! Reader [John] saw our recent Fail of the Week post about a “sand matrix printer” and decided to share his own version, a sand-dispensing dot matrix printer he built last year.

Granted, [John]’s version is almost the exact opposite of [Vjie Miller]’s failed build, which sought to make depressions in the sand to print characters. [John]’s Sandscript takes a hopper full of dry, clean sand and dispenses small piles from six small servo-controlled nozzles. The hopper is mounted on a wheeled frame, and an optical encoder on one wheel senses forward motion to determine when to open each nozzle. As [John] slowly walks behind and to the side of the cart, a line of verse is slowly drizzled out onto the pavement. See it in action in the video below.

More performance art piece than anything else, we can see how this would be really engaging, with people following along like kids after the [Pied Piper], waiting to find out what the full message is. There’s probably a statement in there about the impermanence of art and the fleeting nature of existence, but we just think it’s a really cool build.

We’ve featured other sand writers before, like this high-resolution draw bot that also dispenses sandy verses, or this literal beach-combing art bot. Guess there’s just something about sand that inspires artists and hackers alike.

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