Open Frameworks Workshop with Joel Lewis [RPCT]

One of the major perks of being a Raspberry Pi Creative Technologist are the workshop weekends we attend, where we get to go to a totally different city and meet with inspiring and knowledgable individuals that can help us on our journey towards our final exhibition and showing off our digital projects!

Last workshop we visited London to spend the weekend over with Joel Lewis at Hellicar & Lewis; a craft, design and technology studio that specialises in engagement. Here, Joel opened our minds to the wonder that is open Frameworks!

Hellicar & Lewish RPCT

Open Frameworks is ‘an open source C++ toolkit for creative coding’. Yes, creative coding, that’s a thing! On first glances oF can seem quite intimidating with it’s countless amounts of libraries, add-ons and documentation attached to it. For us, taking a look through it all, we couldn’t help but get immediately excited about everything that oF had to offer us, from projection mapping and facial recognition to graphic rendering and animation as well as so much more! But without some guidance it’s easy to become overwhelmed by it all.

Lucky for us, Joel Lewis is an open Frameworks wizard and quickly squished any negative or fearsome thoughts we may initially have had by showing us some of the inspiring work that he and his team at Hellicar & Lewis had produced using this framework. They have created work for organisations such as an interactive arctic dome installation for Greenpeace, and commercial pieces for brands such as Nike with an interactive live broadcast for of Nike’s ‘Festival of Feel’. However, what impressed me the most was how they had used what the framework had to offer to create pieces of technology to help make people’s lives better; one major piece of work being Somability. This is a series of technology applications which included interaction such as visual amplification and rhythmic interaction, these put together promoted expressive movement and collaboration among people with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

Joel explained how using open Frameworks for his projects was like putting a puzzle together. Instead of having to get bogged down with the long-winded ‘codey’ and mathematical parts of the problem, all that has to be done is to search for the different functionalities that you wish to use; be that particle manipulation, beat detection, whatever you wish! Open Frameworks is likely to have the code already there for you to use, or at least have something close to what you need. Then all that’s left for you to do is the creative process, fitting the puzzle pieces together to create something new and utterly awesome! Of course, sometimes these puzzle pieces might not always fit snugly, the code may need to be tweaked to suit our projects needs so Joel led us through the simple steps of changing an application that had already be made. From importing libraries to manipulating the design and display of the application in relative to the mouse movement, we quickly realised that there was nothing to be intimated by with this framework, it was a matter of tweaking code that was already readily available for us and, overall, having fun!

Joel also emphasised his love for the open source community during the workshop. Gone are the days where people want to hide their work and keep their findings to themselves so as to become better than their peers; todays world is all about being open and sharing with the community! Every library and add-on within oF has been created by somebody and shared freely, asking for nothing in return. That might sound crazy but in reality it’s actually very clever! Not only do you help others (such as myself) to learn how to code by looking at examples and tweaking bits that are already there to suit my own needs, you also get the benefits of the community building upon your initial piece of code, fixing bugs or even making it better than you could have yourself. Heck, somebody might even see your open source code and offer you a job from it! An open source community is also a friendly one, one where people actually want to help others instead of simply focus on their own projects, and therefore the open Framework’s forum is always full of people willing to pass on their knowledge to others and help wherever they can; which is great news for us newbs!

Joel Lewis and RPCT

After the weekend at Hellicar & Lewis I’m left feeling very excited about what open Frameworks and the open source community surrounding it has to offer and can’t wait to start piecing together my own puzzle!

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Raspberry Pi Creative Technologist: Origins!

Me and Pi

For years I’ve felt trapped in an endless battle over where I want to be in my ‘career’. Conflicted over my mutual passion for both narrative and using technology to be endlessly creative with the stories that I come up with. It seemed the war over what society deems as ‘creativity’ and what I perceived to be true was never to end.

From education where I used my initiative to adapt my ‘media course’ to include games development and web development units along with the usual film and radio ones, and left hoping to mould my own future the way that I foresaw it. But instead, fell into a trap of corporate ideals within the working world; forcing me to choose between the forward-thinking robots of the ‘tech’ world, or the pitches and brainstorming world of the ‘creatives’, with little room for anything in between.

creative technologists

This is when I stumbled across the Creative Technologist Programme by Raspberry Pi. This programme advertised itself to be ‘focused on supporting and inspiring young people who are interested in creative uses of technology.’ My jaw dropped, excitement splurging as I frantically applied to the best of my ability (a total of 3 times by accident, perhaps a bit too eager)

Tadaarrr!

Thus concludes the origins of how I became a Creative Technologist!

Raspberry Pi Towers

As a Creative Technologist I’m able to meet inspiring people from the Raspberry Pi community, from those within the Foundation to those attending Raspberry Jams and other events / meetups. Draw knowledge from successful individuals with other companies such as Hellicar and Lewis, FutureEverything, Pimoroni and more. Gain experience from getting involved in hackathons as well as independently learning about technology and what can be achieved with it.

All the while I’ll be working towards a top secret project which will be exhibited by the end of the programme, around April of next year.

Throughout this time I’ll be updating this blog with my experiences throughout the Creative Technologist programme; where I go, who I meet and what I learn. Everything! Apart from my project…

My project remains TOP SECRET!

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Birthday Live Stream and Twitter Wall

Birthday Live Stream

May the 15th is a very special day. My birthday, and like most people I wanted to do something pretty awesome for it! But, I rejected the normal traditions of booze, parties and even cake to try something totally new on my YouTube channel and integrate it with my new role as a Raspberry Pi Creative Technologist.

I wanted to spend my birthday with the Internet! (Yes, I know how lame that sounds but no, I have no regrets)

The Idea

I came up with this idea a couple of days before my actual birthday during one of my ‘creative naps’ (trust me, napping is extremely useful for helping creative juices flow, it’s not just laziness, I swear). I realised that the closest people to me were scattered all around the world, from different parts of the UK all the way to the USA, and wished there was a way to share my birthday with them all. But of course there is, this is the digital age after all!

So I set forth investigating all about setting up a live stream through YouTube. My idea seemed simple, live stream for as long as I could, giving my friends and viewers alike from around the world a chance to take part in the online event in their own time zones. The only problem was, THE LAG! It was horrendous, I would say there was about a 10 second delay at the best of times. Granted, this probably had a lot to do with the fact that I live in a house with 3 other equally Internet-obsessed individuals, but still, there was no way that I could interact with people this way. That’s where the Raspberry Pi comes in! I could set up a live twitter feed, pulling tweets with #YagmanXBDay and see them in real-time, using these tweets as a way to interact with my viewers more efficiently as well as having them to fill gaps in my very long stream so that I could have small breaks. Perfect!

The Tech

Twitter feedThe Twitter Feed was coded based on a BitPi.co tutorial which uses NodeJS and ttezel’s twit Node Twitter API to pull tweets with certain keywords into the terminal in realtime.

I then made my own tweaks to the code by using the node module colors.js to decorate the terminal, making the tweets appear in a more presentable way. I randomised the colour of each tweet, keeping the twitter handles the same to emphasise who the tweets were sent from and added break points in between each tweet to make them easy to differentiate from each other. The code can be found on my GitHub in the Twitter-Feed git repo.

By running this on the Raspberry Pi I was then able to SSH into it from my mac and connect an external screen just for the terminal window that was hosting the twitter feed. This way, when using Google Hangouts to live stream the event I could simply use the screen share option to switch to the open terminal window to show viewers their tweets.

The Outcome

The response and engagement that I received from the live stream itself far exceeded my expectations!

The twitter feed stayed active throughout the full 6+ hours of my live stream, even those who couldn’t watch the video stream were getting involved by tweeting with the hashtag #YagmanXBDay. Some simply wishing me a happy birthday, others helping to spread the live stream further, commending my achievement of what is possibly the ‘Nerdiest Birthday Ever’.

Viewers of the stream used the twitter feed to interact more directly with me while I entertained them through singing, attempting to rap, answering questions and even reading them a bed time story before finally ending the stream.

This birthday I came away with a wider knowledge of technology and how much the Raspberry Pi can handle, greatly improved improvisation skills by coming up with creative ideas on the spot to keep my viewers engaged for over 6 hours and ultimately proved to myself that even with limited time, if I put my mind to something I really can make it happen. (Anyone can!)

CHEESE ALERT

Thank you to everyone who got involved in my Birthday Live Stream, either by watching, tweeting or even showing interest in it now! I’m no fool and I know that without the kind and awesome people who show interest in my content and projects, they simply wouldn’t amount to anything. It’s with engagement and interaction that spontaneous ideas such as this one become a reality and I couldn’t do it without the wonderful online community that I am so grateful to be a part of.

The full stream is on my YouTube for all to enjoy!

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Art Hackathon – Emoti

emoti

Update: Check out the Emoti web page!

I’ve always heard about how awesome Hackathon’s could be; they’re a chance to surround yourself with intelligent people who share the same interest, come up with inspiring ideas together and become engrossed in a project, with everyone chipping in to turn concept into reality over one weekend.

Hacking at Hackathon

But I’m going to be perfectly honest with you here; however awesome this sounds, I can’t help but feel a tad intimidated by it all. There’s still so much I feel I have yet to learn and I always worry about how much of an asset (or a nuisance) I would be.

So when I saw an opportunity to go to an Art Hackathon, which aspired to mix teams with different skill sets and types, I knew that I had to attend, and I’m so glad I did! With the Hackathon holding presentations by many talented people including as Joel Lewis, Di Mainstone and Nick Rothwell, as well tables full of various tech and art supplies, there were no limitations to the amount of creativity that we could muster!

All of this inspired a creation that managed to win 2nd Place for Peoples Choice, and I can proudly say that I was a part of its development:

Emoti – Visualising our Emotions

Emoti shows the emotional state of the world through combined visual colours and audio, resulting in a beautifully chaotic representation of the emotional state of the world- or at least the twitterverse.

Using Twitter Widgets, our team was able to pull certain keywords from tweets being posted in real time and assign them to different emotion types, which meant being able to have constantly updated data on how people were feeling on twitter through these emotion-related keywords. The emotions we assigned them to were: Happy, Sad, Surprised, Afraid and Angry.

From this data we then created a simple HTML web-page with 5 divs, or blocks, of colour relating to the different emotion states. These would constantly change width depending on the data that was being collected from the tweets to give a visual representation of how many people were tweeting under each emotion:
Emoti colours

  • Green = Happy
  • Blue = Sad
  • Yellow = Surprised
  • Pink = Afraid
  • Red = Angry

To make this experience of witnessing how the world feels and how frequently these emotions change more immersive, these visual representations are also accompanied with audio. We chose five audio tracks, one to depict each emotion, adding them into the web-page using the HTML5 audio tag, and adjusted their volume depending on the emotion-based twitter data with some JavaScript wizardry. This ended up with the clashing music types seemingly battling against each other, reflecting how hectic the live emotion states were and how rapidly they would change at random; one moment showing solely happiness, the next ultimate anger.

This was an Art Hackathon don’t forget, so, of course we had to present this data in a beautiful and intriguing way. What’s more intriguing than creating the illusion of 3D colour-changing ripples?!

emoti fullFor this effect, the designers in our team lazer cut clear plastic to create the individual ripples and slotted them into a black board. I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to whip out my Raspberry Pi!  We ran the web-page through the Pi and hooked it up to the HDMIPi, allowing a bright screen for our structure to be placed onto, so that the moving coloured blocks from below would shine onto the clear plastic and give the illusion of a 3D object.

Finally, the structure was put together in a dark, enclosed space, and the end product came to life, completely exceeding my expectations! Colours danced gracefully across the ripples, making us forget that there was even a web-page below. It was easy to get lost in the entrancing movement of pattern that the object seemed to create. As soon as you immerse yourself in the full experience, with audio as well as these entrancing visuals, it becomes a little overwhelming. Watching the colours is one thing, but hearing the clashes of audio really brings the message across that this is how people from around the world are feeling right now.

It’s both a marvel and a mess all at the same time; both beautiful and chaotic. Just like the emotions we feel and the complexity behind them. 

Yes, it’s open source! Find the (somewhat messy) code here: https://github.com/itomblack/emotion-twitter

What I Gained…

Aside from the obvious: an awesome project, a better understanding of how to work in a team and improved coding skills, I managed to come away from the Hackathon feeling much more positive about what I, an as individual, can achieve. I may not be have been the most skilled coder in the room but I was still able to have meaningful input on the project, both creatively and through my development skills, which leaves me wondering what I was so worried about in the first place!

As well as this I’m so grateful to have had the pleasure of meeting many creative and genuinely lovely people. It was so interesting to see all of the various projects that everyone had made, each one entirely unique and fascinating in its own right.

Thank you to the people behind the Art Hackathon event and those intelligent folk within the Emoti Dream Team who helped bring it to life:

P.S. This is my very first blog, how am I doing? Let me know! (If you want to… No pressure…)

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