‘Bit’ Installation Combines Art, Markov Chains

A Markov chain is a mathematical concept of a sequence of events, in which each future event depends only on the state of the previous events. Like most mathematical concepts, it has wide-ranging applications from gambling to the stock market, but in this case, [Jonghong Park] has applied it to art.

The installation, known simply as ‘bit’, consists of four machines. Each machine has two microswitches, which are moved around two wooden discs by a stepper motor. The microswitches read bumps on the surface of the disc as either a 0 or 1, and the two bits from the microswitches represent the machine’s “state”.

When a machine is called, the stepper motor rotates 1/240th of a revolution, and then the microswitches read the machine’s current state. Based on this state and the Markov Chain algorithm coded into the machines, a machine with the corresponding state is then called, which in turn moves, continuing the chain.

The piece is intended to reflect the idea of a deterministic universe, one in which the current state can be used to predict all future states. As an art piece, it combines its message with a visually attractive presentation of understated black metal and neatly finished wood.

We love a good art installation here at Hackaday – like this amazing snowflake install from a couple years back. Video after the break.

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Keyboard composes its own music

Summer is right around the corner and all the final projects from electronic design classes are rolling into the tip line. This time, we’ve got [Chaorong] and [Siyu]’s auto-composing keyboard from their time in ECE4760 at Cornell.

The keyboard has two modes: a ‘happy’ mode and a ‘tender’ mode, the difference being the tender mode is slower and sounds a little like a lullaby. After two keys are pressed, the ATMega644 figures out what key it should play in and starts generating a random-ish sounding song using a Markov probability matrix.

There’s a third option for the keyboard as well: play a short melody and the software will loop through a few permutations of the melody. After the break, you can see [Siyu] play Ode to Joy and have the autocomposer improvise around the tune. Very, very nice work and we can’t wait to see more senior design projects hit the tip line.

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