Second Kinect Prototype

Posted on March 2, 2012 by Patrick under Final Project

This is my second experiment using the Kinect sensor. Having worked out previously how to get sound to respond to movements, I set about trying to create a relationship between movement and visuals. I’ve been looking into Jitter a lot recently and was keen to keep everything within MaxMSP if possible but I cam across some really good tutorials for Processing. The one I adapted is from Jose Sanchez at Plethora Project and makes use of something called ‘L-Systems’. The result is an abstract form that bends and moves in response to the actions of the user. I have configured the left hand to distort the shape and the distance of the right hand to the sensor to control the number of times the line is repeated along the shape. Added to this is are some basic sound elements in MaxMSP and the result is the beginnings of an audio/visual environment that directly engages with the actions of the user.

The 8-bit Bin

Posted on by Patrick under Contemporary Art Module

We’re making good progress with our 8-bit bin project. Getting to grips with the electronics side of it has been a steep learning curve but it can be very satisfying when you get something working. Our plan is to create a matrix of LED’s that display pixelated 8-bit animations. The challenge is that we want to run at least 25 leds but we only have 13 pins on the arduino board. The way around this is by using a process called multiplexing. By adding a shift resistor to the breadboard of the arduino, 1 input pin can have up to 8 outputs, thus increasing the amount of LED’s we can control. For our purposes, we will need 4 shift resistors in total. Then, once the LED’s are working, each one is going to be housed behind a 5x5cm panel of sand-blasted perspex (perhaps also wrapped in gause to increase the light diffussion). These pixels will then be fitted into an mdf panel to create a large scale pixel matrix. Then the fun begins. The sequences of animations we create will be controlled by the reading of a light depended resistor. When the bin is opened, it will trigger an animation in response. When not in use, it will have a series of animations it will cycle through to attract attention. This, along with some 8-bit sounds, should create a really fun experience.

Critical Design

Posted on February 24, 2012 by Patrick under Final Project

I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to what the subject of my final project should be. What has really interested me lately is the whole idea of ‘critical design’. This movement has been popularised principally by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, who teach an MA in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art in London. Usually concerned with future scenarios, the approach uses designed artifacts to make critical observations about our culture. The aim is to stimulate reflection on values, morals, and practices we take for granted. It is this kind of critical framework that will become an important foundation to my final project.

‘Technological Dream Series: No. 1, Robots’, an installation by Dunne and Raby, looks at how our relationship with robots will evolve as they take on different levels of intelligence. Will we regard them as subservient, dependent or even equal?


Posted on February 22, 2012 by Patrick under Arduino


Today we got to grips with the Arduino. After spending some time last week on the basics, today we used a Piezo sensor as a speaker to play a basic tune. The tune could then be triggered with a switch by plugging in and out a wire. After that, we broke out the light dependent resistor to activate a flashing LED. Interestingly, although we were using the resistor as simply an on/off switch, it does display an array of values depending on the light levels it receives. This could then be used to create a similar theremin-like experiment like the one I made with the Kinect. Fun fun fun!

First Kinect Prototype

Posted on February 11, 2012 by Patrick under Final Project

After downloading Synapse I put together my first Kinect prototype using MaxMSP. Max is reading the coordinates of my left and right hand and adjusts the pitch of the sound based on their distance from the sensor. Moving far away makes the pitch increase while moving closer makes it decrease. My plan is to get the X and Y coordinates to control other characteristics of the sound.

Kinect Fun

Posted on February 2, 2012 by Patrick under Final Project

Yesterday I spent several hard earned euros on a Kinect sensor. Since then I’ve been hard at work experimenting with it. I’m planning on using the Kinect with Processing and/or MaxMSP for my final project. Below are some resources I have found useful for each application.


Daniel Shiffman (
Shiffman very helpfully breaks down the process of getting started with a Kinect into easily digestible chunks. He has developed his own Kinect library for Processing along with some ‘proof of concept’ examples.

Average Point Tracking
This tracks the average location beyond a given depth threshold. I’m not quite sure what it can be used for yet but it looks cool.

Point Cloud
If you’ve ever seen the video for House of Cards by Radiohead, this example should be of interest. It uses information from the Kinect’s depth map to plot points in space and then rotates around them. Hours of fun. Well, about twenty minutes or so.

RGB Depth Test
This example makes use of the basic functions made available by the library. You can toggle the various cameras (infrared, depth, and RGB) on and off as well as controlling the sensors rotation. The building blocks of an exciting project.


Synapse (
Synapse works really well ‘out of the box’. When you open up the application it recognises your skeleton and assigns markers to several critical body parts. You can then get MaxMSP to retrieve the coordinates of these body parts from Synapse using a set of predefined commands via OSC. These coordinates can then be used to drive a generative system in MaxMSP. Exciting stuff if you’re into that kind of thing.

That’s it for now but I’ll post up more discoveries and experiments as and when they happen.

Thoughts on my Final Project

Posted on January 27, 2012 by Patrick under Final Project

So we’ve just finished the first week of our second semester back in college. The pressure is on now to get specific about what we’re planning to do for our final project. I’ve decided to pick Contemporary Art in the Public Realm as my elective. I was really interested in doing Programming Music Systems, but I think when I start to apply for jobs, two interactive projects will be of more benefit to me. Although, I’m going to attend as many music lectures as possible because the content is very relevant to what I’m thinking for my final project at the moment.

That’s really the main reason for this post, to talk through my current thinking for the project. At the end of the first semester I was interested in the idea of generative art. The whole area fascinates me and it’s something I still want to pursue. I’ve always had in mind that I want to build an art installation. Something that generates sound and visuals based on the movements of a person. Now, that’s all still a bit vague. I’ve thought a lot about how I want to make the project but not enough about why. As I’ve mainly been working on commercial projects for past few years, I’m excited by the opportunity to indulge myself in an art project.

There are two strands I’m currently exploring. Augmenting performance with interactive technologies (i.e. Digital Theatre) and using generative code to produce one off artworks that someone could share online. They both have a similar starting point: using the movement of a person to generate content. David Rokeby is a great example of an interactive artist where the ‘user’ is central to the artwork. His early work ‘Very Nervous System’ from 1982 is remarkably similar to something you might do by hacking a kinect sensor – and this was in the 80’s. But also a more recent work from 2002 ‘Taken’ makes the user central to the creation of meaning. ‘Taken’ is almost autonomous in a way, starting out with some initial conditions and evolving on it’s own from there. Working like this, within the boundaries of art and technology, is something I want to explore further. So with this as a starting point, I need to do some more research.