Frontend webdesign for New Atlantis sculpture

I’m making an interactive sculpture for the Enlightenment Café’s New Atlantis immersive theatre show, running at The Crystal in London on the 19th-25th January. The sculpture explores how our awareness of ecological problems might impact on our survival as a species.

In previous posts you’ll be able to see how the electronics and mould-making for the sculpture have progressed. I’m now seeing in the New Year by doing some frontend design for the screen that will show data from Twitter and a countdown to the next deluge of water, which will happen after a set amount of time, if a Twitter target is not met for a number of tweets with a certain hashtag. To delay the deluge, and the consequent faster melting of the icebergs underneath the tap, the audience can tweet at the sculpture so that the discussion hashtag reaches its target before the deadline.

My paper designs gave rise to the following:

I settled on the design in the bottom left hand corner
I settled on the design in the bottom left hand corner

And now I’m half way through making it digital. I’m using as the bootstrap template, the Bootbundle “Counter” Template from Blacktie. This is just the static page with the counter. Now I need to add in the dynamic stuff from Node Red and to play about with transparency for the Twitter feed at the bottom.

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 19.42.58
And here it is in digital form half way through the creation process

I still need to name this sculpture..! Answers on postcards please…

How I learned to stop hating and love old electronics – or, making a servo work with a Raspberry Pi by cannibalising ancient motherboards and creative use of the CRT monitors that have been cluttering up the studio

I’m going all guns preparing my sculpture for the New Atlantis theatre show by The Enlightenment Cafe. It’s opening on 19th January at The Crystal in London, UK. Having made iceberg moulds and delivered them to the UCL ice physics laboratory, the next step is to create a hot water boiler that responds to water-related activity on Twitter.

This involves some playing with electronics…

I unwrapped my “christmas presents” from myself gleefully yesterday morning. Electronics to play with! A Raspberry Pi! Cables! A servo!!

Except not everything was there… In fact, there were no jumper cables, and there was no Raspberry Pi B+. And to make matters worse, the 7 inch screen I ordered arrived broken – crucial wires having been sliced through before it was bunged in a package and sent over to me.

cable cutter... not impressed with the ebay service
This is not a serviceable screen.

 

Woe. Woe is me.

Having fortified myself with tea, I decided to see how far we could get with an old RPi (Model A, rev 2) and the cables we already had.

Thus, I made command central. All systems go.

IMG_5450

Using one age old CRT monitor as a workbench, I used the other – normally used for video editing – as a makeshift screen. I literally lost track of how long we spent looking for cables to hook up these bad boys. Finally, hanging onto these hulking brutes of useless electronics through international relocations has paid off. Jun (my incredibly helpful other half without whom I’d not have got so far yesterday) – and his vast stores of seemingly irrelevant and outdated gear – has been vindicated.

But it’s not just Jun who hangs onto old electronics – I have been lugging old bits of redundant crap around the globe too. Including this old motherboard.

motherboard
HOW OLD? I got this baby from a skip outside my department at the University of Cambridge in 2006.

This old motherboard which was the source of the final component we needed – female adapters for my cables so we could link them up to the RPi.

Ancient tech on a shiny new RPi
Ancient tech on a shiny new RPi

Et voila!

All that remained was for me to hook everything up

IMG_5456

Rigging up the servo
Rigging up the servo

Do a bit of programming – you can find some details of how Jun and I got it working on my New Atlantis hackpad – and suddenly you have a servo getting its groove on to the tune of Twitter.

New Atlantis Sculpture – Servo dances to Twitter beats from Kat Austen on Vimeo.

“This video shows two steps in getting a servo to respond to Twitter. First, we’re rigging it up and testing its response by varying the PWM-MS values. Then we hook it up to a Node Red script that scrapes Twitter for #water and #fail at the limits of the PWM-MS values – and it’s grooving to Twitter’s beats.”

The Node Red json files for this can be found on my github repository for New Atlantis.

Finally, I’m struggling with a name for the sculpture. In a wanton fit of sentimentality and punnage I went for Melting Hearts – but I hate it. Suggestions gratefully appreciated.

Icebergs hit London

After a fantastic 2 weeks working with prop maker and mould guru Ben Palmer at his Berlin workshop, I took the three iceberg moulds via plane and train to London, to UCL’s Ice Physics lab. Here they’re growing and freezing under the stewardship of the un-frosty Ben Lishman.

Ben is researching friction in ice, which should help engineers and climate modellers work out where ice will flow and how it will behave. It’s a tricky topic, he tells me, because the properties vary depending no only on the temperature of the ice but also on what’s in the water. I’m hoping the next month of iceberg production will help inform his research by providing new data on friction between ice and silicone in strange shapes!

You’ll also notice that there’s a water boiler lurking in these photos. A vital part of the forthcoming sculpture for New Atlantis, I had a delightful hour in Nisbett’s catering supplies in Shoreditch working out flow rate from the water boiler, and its tap stability, with a very amused, helpful staff member (who asked not to be named).

Representing resource use at UCL

The sculpture I made with Andrea Sella, Rae Harbrid and Stephen Hailes is on display in the UCL North Cloisters this week.

It’s called Elements, because I love cheese.

Here’s a blog post for UCL MAPS (where I am Writer in Residence) where I explain what the concept of the sculpture is – including a short video of of parts of it working. Image credit: UCL.

ElementsUCL

Superseded Muse

She’s not the one you write for any more
Perhaps she hasn’t been for years
She gave that privilege away
It died when you dried your tears

If she exists in your head, what happens to her when she no longer inspires you?
If she exists in your head, what happens to her when she no longer inspires you?

Fear not golden girl
As you creep into your decrepitude
Your favours blossom still