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physical computing



Years by Bartholomäus Traubeck

A record player that plays slices of wood.
Modified record player, wood, sleeves. 2011

A tree’s year rings are analysed for their strength, thickness and rate of growth. This data serves as basis for a generative process that outputs piano music. It is mapped to a scale which is again defined by the overall appearance of the wood (ranging from dark to light and from strong texture to light texture). The foundation for the music is certainly found in the defined ruleset of programming and hardware setup, but the data acquired from every tree interprets this ruleset very differently.

Thanks to Land Salzburg, Schmiede, Pro-ject Audio, Rohol Furniere, Karla Spiluttini, Ivo Francx, vvvv.

Bartholomäus Traubeck

years 4 640x426 300x199 Years by Bartholomäus Traubeck

years 5 640x422 300x197 Years by Bartholomäus Traubeck

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CLOUDS Documentary

Over the last year we have captured interviews with over 30 new media artists, curators, designers, and critics, using a new 3D cinema format called RGBD. CLOUDS presents a generative portrait of this digital arts community in a videogame-like environment. The artists inhabit a shared space with their code-based creations, allowing you to follow your curiosity through a network of stories.

What does it feel like to think with code? How can emerging technologies enable us to actualize our dreams? How has online sharing transformed the way artists collaborate?

A preview of the CLOUDS film, science fiction author Bruce Sterling speaks aloud about the art of code.

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Kinesthetics: Art Imitating Life

Pratt Manhattan Gallery
Pratt Institute

February 8 – April 27, 2013

Gallery hours:
Monday–Saturday 11–6pm
Thursdays until 8pm
Closed on President’s Day

Artists: U-Ram Choe, Casey Curran, Chico MacMurtrie, Reuben Margolin, Meridith Pingree, Alan Rath, Adriana Salazar, Björn Schülke, Che-Wei Wang, Zimoun

Co-curators: Nick Battis, Director of Exhibitions; and Linda Lauro Lazin, Adjunct Associate Professor, Digital Arts

The artists represented in this exhibition create kinetic sculptures that echo the movement of natural forms and explore human experiences. Their sculptures move with elegant and articulated gestures that are powered by hand, plug-in electricity, and solar cells.

Through their work, the artists included in Kinesthetics: Art Imitating Life investigate various aspects of movement and how it relates to life, to a visual language, to math and time, and to our own biological and emotional rhythms. Some examine movement in nature by re-animating specimens of plant and animal forms, while others tap into our culture’s anxiety about and fascination with technology. Other sculptures mimic human creative endeavors such as mark making and sound making or replicate ordinary, everyday tasks such as tying shoelaces. With the use of technology, many of the artists in this exhibition are able to subvert the predictability of motion prevalent in traditional mobiles and outdoor kinetic works.

Kinesthetics: Art Imitating Life is akin to a choreographed performance. Each of the sculptures in the exhibition reveal a kind of persona that evolves over time: some playful, some pensive, some menacing, each unique. Are these mysterious characters alive? These hybrid works combine elements from the natural world with mechanical parts such as wires, motors, strings, pulleys, hydraulics, and high tensile fabric. And yet they have begun to transcend their artificiality. Their gestures are no longer the gestures of clumsy automata. Their movement has become graceful and fluid. The artists in this exhibition are contemporary Pygmalions (or perhaps Dr. Frankensteins). As we watch life breathed into their sculptures, we begin to ask ourselves what it means to be alive.

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Imogen Heap Performance with Musical Gloves Demo

“It’s the sustain! It’s never done that before!” Imogen Heap breaks out of a captivating performance of a song written just three weeks ago for a piece of tech she’s had to wait two-and-a-half years to get her hands on.

Covering Heap’s hands, arms and back are a series of wires. Two LEDs blink on the back of her hands. She adjusts a setting on her computer and composes herself in the centre of the stage, eager to continue the performance. Despite the minor hitch, the Wired 2012 audience are still captivated by the award-winning musician — if anything, the error only makes her passion for the new technology all the more obvious.

Heap told Wired 2012 that before she got her hands on her “magical gloves”, she would make music with an array of instruments and virtual instruments, along with Albeton music software: “Basically, inside this software I can play virtual instruments and loop things, add layers and textures that I spend hours working on in my basement. But I wanted to bring those sounds on stage with me. I strapped keyboards onto me, had microphones attached to my wrists so that I can mic up wine glasses or guitars or whatever I wanted to record. The problem was, how could I do this on the move.

“A lot of what I do, like adding a huge reverb to an instrument, is done by pressing a button on a keyboard — which isn’t very exciting. You can’t even see what i’m doing,” Heap said, picking up a synth and pressing said button. “I could be checking my email for all you know. Fifty percent of the show gets hidden. I wondered how to make it fluid on the stage without these buttons — I wanted to make a gesture like this [she throws her arm out in a wide arc] to add the reverb so you could see and hear the sound, which is much more interesting than turning a pot around.”

Heap encountered a technology that would inspire her own musical mittens when she visited the MIT Media Lab two-and-a-half years ago. There she met Elly Jessop, whose gesture gloves left an impression on Heap: “What she’d done was simple, or rather the idea was simple,” says Heap. “[Elly] sang a note and moved her hand — a gesture that let her control the grain of the note. She could change vibrato or select a harmony with movement. When I saw this combination of music and movement intuitively combined, I wanted to get involved.”

The device that Heap is wearing on the Wired 2012 stage has taken her and a team from the University of West England several years to develop. As well as the tools that she’s wearing, there’s an Xbox Kinect at the back of the stage that translates Heap’s position into different effects and layers. “It’s like the floor is like my playground, so I can walk into different sections to control the sound — I can step into a choir of ‘mes’.” Heap steps into a section of the stage and sings a note, which is instantly harmonised by an invisible choir.

“So it’s not just a controller, it’s really an instrument,” she explains. “The way we program the gestures is the same as playing an instrument in 3D space. As I walk around the stage you can see that I’m walking into a different set of effects. My proximity to the audience is also part of the performance — so when I’m further away from the audience the sound is a lot bigger, but when I get closer to the audience it becomes more intimate.”

Having demoed the incredible technology, Heap then began her performance — an incredible mix of song and movement. Despite the occasional glitch, it was an incredible spectacle. Should you have the chance of seeing Heap with her new technology, you’re in for a treat.

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Interactive Floor Prototype

This is something I picked up on my news feed. It’s a new floor prototype that senses a users foot prints and other interactions to make environments interactive. I think this is definitely the direction things are headed. They mentioned assisted living as a possible application and I think it could be very useful. But I also see the continued scary flip side of this technology. Each step you take and the things you interact with in your house (and elsewhere) are recorded and available for multiple levels of analysis. A brave new world indeed.



LED & sound array

I thought it would be fun to post a few of the projects I’m working on. This LED and MIDI sound array are controlled by an accelerometer and gyroscope combo chip with an Arduino. I found this project on, it’s called the Sugarcube. I wanted to experiment with LED arrays and shift registers, but the main goal was to control MIDI with a accelerometer gyroscope chip. I killed two birds with one stone on this one.



New Sound Board

Kevin Marinelli is magic. He’s been working on a revision to the first version of the sound board and has now made it Arduino form factor compatible. This should make it much more accessible to the DIY and student crowd. He’s sending me the latest version for testing. I’ll be writing something up on this for the UConn website as well as submission to Make. But first testing!



9 degrees of freedom!

9 degrees of freedom with bluetooth and Lithium polymer battery

I got this 9 degrees of freedom circuit hooked up to a bluetooth circuit powered by a lithium polymer battery. The bluetooth transmits serial data wirelessly to the computer. I have a generative Processing sketch using the roll, pitch and yaw as inputs while the sketch runs. Interaction controls and shapes the physical structure as well as the colors produced. This is a good first step. I’ll be continuing to develop the object design that will hold the circuit and what kind of interactions this object might produce. Here are a few examples of images generated using the board as a control device.

9 degrees of freedom example 1

9 degrees of freedom example 1

9 degrees of freedom example 2

9 degrees of freedom example 2

9 degrees of freedom example 3

9 degrees of freedom example 3

9 degrees of freedom example 4

9 degrees of freedom example 4

9 degrees of freedom example 5

9 degrees of freedom example 5



New Sound Device PCB Prototype

Sound Device Prototype

I’ve been working with Kevin Marinelli in the Math department here at UConn on this project. He’s been helping to produce the PCB prototype board. It’s based on the Tetrafol created by Fol Chen in collaboration with monome and Machine Project.

At the moment Kevin is adding some new features to the design of the board. Everything is quite small with a lot of surface mounted components. I’m hoping to get a design of the board with more through-hole components that would be suitable to use for an interaction design class so beginning students could more easily solder everything together.

I’ll post more updates once a working prototype is finished.



Make Controller with Sonar Proximity Detectors and MaxMSP

Well, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve last updated. I have a lot to catch up on. I thought it would be fun to start off with a project that I just started. Check it out:

I’ll be heading up to Connecticut in the Fall to start an MFA program focusing on installation and new media. I’m planning on incorporating a lot of this physical computing type of stuff. Now that I’ve got the basics of building the hardware, I can focus on how to be creative with it!