Maker Faires are great places to see some interesting combinations of both art and technology that can be found nowhere else. Where else could you see Robotic Chimps on Scooters, an autonomous machine that creates objects based on the influences that surround it or get your own 3D printed portrait in amazing detail?
It’s on that note that I found another interesting piece of technology-based art that came out of this year’s Austin Mini Maker Faire: AIIM’s (Austin Interactive Installation Meetup) Digital Dreamer interactive installation that’s based on the story of Rip Van Winkle.
The team — Lisa B. Woods (art direction, electronics, and fabrication), Ryan Padgett (animation), Sarah Thomas (illustrations), and Kevin Reilly (electronics) — designed the 15′×8′ interactive display using an Arduino Uno, conductive paint, a projector, and a host of other technology to bring the display to life.
I had a chance to ask Woods how Digital Dreamer came about and what was involved with bringing it to life:
“We wanted to make something together and Maker Faire was the perfect opportunity to do so. AMMF gave us a deadline, a large, enthusiastic (and forgiving) audience, 20ft x 10ft of space (we took up two spots), and the freedom to create whatever we could imagine, afford, and complete in a month a half.”
However, the original design (a SXSW-themed countdown clock) she had in mind wasn’t approved, so she and her team modified it to be more child-friendly and thus became the story of Winkle, which is no less impressive.
The technology incorporated into the piece is no less impressive than the art itself and asked Woods if the Arduino controlled the entire show:
“Yes, an Arduino UNO controls the entire interaction. A rotary encoder works with the clock hand to scrub a looping video between night to day. In this way, the user controls ‘time.’ The conductive paint touchpoints light up when touched and trigger the secondary animations—animals peeping in from the trees, flowers blooming, gnomes appearing, and pink elephants flying.”
As far as the interactive controls are concerned, she states:
“Each of the 4 discs triggers a separate mini-animation, and all 5 interactions can happen simultaneously. We wanted an interaction that five people could play with at once. We used Processing to control the scrubbing and triggering of animations. VDMX5 was used to map the projection onto the 15′×8′ illustration.”
She goes on to say:
“It wasn’t too difficult to program, but it was a very finicky setup. Lot of crashes and restarts, lots of babysitting over 2 days. Since then I’ve had a friend recommend using MaxMSP for the interaction and upgrading to an arduino2max to interface between the two.
Despite tech snafus, I’d say the project was a great success. Over 3k folks saw it. Kids had fun with it—the older kids loved the controls, the younger ones just loved dancing in front to the projector. We met parents, educators, STEM/STEAM buffs, artists, and technologists—all of whom had interesting questions, comments, feedback, and extensions of the idea. ‘What if you did this, what if it could do that?’ sort of stuff.”
So what does the future hold for the AIIM crew in regards to new and upcoming projects?
“As the organizer of the Austin Interactive Installation meetup, I’m always looking for opportunities for our members to collaborate and create. I’m currently partnering with Fusebox Festival’s meet up to host a series of art hackathons here in Austin. Several of us have submitted proposals for the upcoming Aurora show in Dallas and the Luminaria show in San Antonio.”
This piece was on display at the Austin Mini Maker Faire. Be sure to go to their site if you’re in the area; you don’t want to miss the next one!