“Blink” isn’t Chris Eckert’s first eyeball project, but it may be his most realistic. With it, he tackled the tricky task of making eyelids that open and close like, well, a real eye. Even creepier, it’s endowed with face-tracking software made by Eckert’s friend Martin Fox. It’s all a prototype for a larger installation, says Eckert, featuring at least 20 eyeballs.
“While the notion of voyeurism is far from new in art, it feels like the topic has particular relevance in a world where every activity is monitored, catalogued, and collated,” says Eckert. “Like most, I’m not certain this is entirely bad but it creeps me out, like suddenly noticing a stranger’s intent gaze, or a wall of mechanical eyeballs that stubbornly monitor my movement.”
Blink was built as part of Autodesk’s Artists in Residence program. Every six months, Autodesk brings a cohort of tech-savvy artists to its tricked-out Pier 9 workshop and tells them to go nuts. These artists spend months exploring whatever materials and techniques strike their fancy, and the results are often amazing. The current class was bigger than ever, and their work was on display at Pier 9 over the weekend. Check out below for just a sampling of some of our favorites.
Taylor Levy’s logic gates, made large and embedded within a piece of acrylic, represent the most basic functions performed by all electronics. “If you can build these gates, you can effectively make pretty much anything that is a digital electronic computer,” says Levy. “The fabrication method developed in this work was done as a way to bring what is normally at the nano-scale up to human scale.”
“Bees are the world’s first 3D printers,” writes Jennifer Robin Berry. “Honeycomb is a biopolymer made from bees’ own bodies.” Furthermore, the shape of the comb structure is extremely strong and efficient. So she built the B-Code Biological 3D Printer to influence the shape of the hive, thus working together with the bees to produce collaborative art. Once the show is over, Berry intends to fill it with bees to make a working hive.
Hot Plastic Extruder
It’s like a hand-held 3D printer on steroids, or a giant glue gun, but ultimately Che-Wei Wang used his Hot Plastic Extruder more as a stationary tool, manipulating the plastic with his hands as it came out. The extruder tip sprays a fine mist to cool the plastic.
The Koi Pond
JoeJoe Martin used The Koi Pond to contrast high-tech (LEDs) with nature (swimming koi). The effect is like staring through a hole to another dimension, and it’s as mesmerizing as you’d expect. “One of the biggest challenges,” says Martin, “was playing ‘director’ and coercing the koi through the video frame by feeding them in alternating areas of the pond.”
You know those collage posters of Abraham Lincoln made up of smaller images? This is like that, only cooler. The 900 little computer-controlled mirrors mounted on Florian Born’s Color-Seeking Mirrors array adjust individually to reflect particular colors, creating a collage.
Spirulina is a safe and nutritious algae, but it can also be modified to produce pharmaceuticals. What if you could grow your own at home, wondered Will Patrick. So he built Farma: a home bioreactor for pharmaceutical drugs. It keeps the Spirulina growing, then filters and dries it, and the home user puts the result in gel capsules. (Currently, it’s regular old non-pharmaceutical Spirulina.)
To build String Fountain, Paolo Salvagione sourced endless rope loops from a rope maker in India and drone motors with low revolutions per volt from a Maker in China. He even identified a mistake in the batch of servos he was using, thanks to intensive testing over two months. “I’m always surprised where a project will take me,” he says. “I have what I think is a simple idea and from that moment I’m off on an adventure.”
Ommatid Spherical Display
The interface — simply palm it, or touch with fingers to interact — of the Ommatid Spherical Display does not belie its complexity. “Inside are 19 custom circuit boards, each one about as complicated as an Arduino,” says Maker Jonathan Foote, “and they all have to talk to each other and the host computer.”
Smartphone Fundus Camera
Motivated by his late grandmother, who was diagnosed with glaucoma, Zach Howard set out to build a retina-imaging device that can diagnose that as well as other eye diseases. Phones already have two of the three components for an eye exam — a camera and a light — Howard points out, so all that remained was the right lens. For Smartphone Fundus Camera, Howard went through several prototypes, which he outlines in the Instructable.
Folding Plotter That Prints Circuits on Textiles
Madison Maxey wanted to explore conductive textiles, so she built this plotter that prints circuits on different fabric. “Making the circuits print reliably was the real challenge here,” says Maxey. “I found that getting a somewhat consistent flow rate for the machine was a huge obstacle.”
Material Speculation: ISIS
With Material Speculation: ISIS, Morehshin Allahyari re-created some of the famous sculptures destroyed by ISIS, placing within the print a flash drive containing research and an STL file for that particular statue.