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CMU Electronic Media Studio II, Fall 2011, Section D » Looking Outward 04

Looking Outward 04

Looking Outwards — AeonX @ 2:26 pm

Being a bit obsessed with zoetropes, praxinoscopes, phenakistoscopes and the like, I was delighted to find The Shadow Machine by Jason Eppinks and I Am. I have been struggling with how to project zoetrope images while retaining the jitter and magic of the 19th century* technology… And this seems to be a beautiful solve! The still images are hand painted on plexi, and then lit from behind with LEDs sequenced by an Arduino. The placement of the piece in an abandoned NYC subway station for The Underbelly Project certainly adds to its appeal, and the Muybridge images of two blacksmiths are an excellent choice for the industrial venue. Michael Brown’s Ghost Horse uses sequenced LEDs to an almost identical effect. (Although, I cannot find information that he used an Arduino to program the LEDs.) I like Brown’s piece even better as he captures the romance of the Victorian era by encasing the animation inside a bell jar. You can watch a video here. But what really got me is that he made it solar powered and placed it in the middle of the desert at Burning Man. See a photo here.

Technically, this is not part of the post since it does not have to do with Arduino… But based on the above… Mitchell F. Chan’s enchantingly interactive piece, A Dream of Pasturesbeckons a shout. When a visitor/participant rides a stationary bicycle, the motion triggers gears that activate the projected animation of a galloping horse. The shadow of the bicycling participant is lined up to appear as if the person is riding the shadow horse.

Which leads me to a Mitchell F. Chan work that DOES use Arduino… The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. The project writes out the entire book in vertical water vapor text generated by ultra and subsonic sound. Per Chan’s site, “The piece addresses the futility of grasping at stable meanings and the beauty of the ineffectual gesture.” It is elegant not just in the visual aesthetic of the vapor rising and disappearing, but also in the subtly audible “pufffffs” each letter makes as they are released from the canisters. “The canisters that shoot the clouds into the air are sequenced through an Arduino reading a .txt file of the whole book on MicroSD,” Chan states in a slightly more technical note here on the Make blog. This would be a wonderful piece to live with… And in winter, especially great for your skin!   😉

I am trying to think of a clever way to segue into the final piece – the ShapeLock Robotic Arm. Hmmm…  One could say there is beauty in its ineffectual gestures, although sometimes they are quite effective, if a little clumsy. This is really super cool. Alexi (from Russia) is moving his human arm with a controller and the robotic arm imitates the gesture. Per Make, “The electronics consist of an Arduino variant, servos, and some potentiometers for the controller.” This could be great for long distance relationships… Although, I believe the sex industry is light years ahead on this. Great Wired article from 2004 here.

*According to Wikipedia, there is evidence the first zoetrope was created in China in 180 AD.

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