Global Hackdays

Noisepages: Websites for smart artists.


Why bring in more people on the same project? It’s a fantastic way to get more variety. And in just one day of work, we got a stunning diversity of ideas about ways to make use of tracking physical objects as an interface. We’ll be following up with a hackday redux so that we can all work together on iterating these ideas, and I’ll have additional documentation both for people refining their projects and new people getting started. But check out what happens in just one day. I can’t wait for “day two.”

Tangible Collaboration on Canada’s Past and Environment

Location: London, Ontario, Canada

I said when we started this that I was curious how people would take something as generic as an “interface” and apply it to something unexpected. And I didn’t expect this: a first experiment by folks doing research on Canadian history and environment:

NiCHE brings together historians, geographers, and other researchers who study nature and humans in Canada’s past. We offer a forum for the field, support collaboration among scholars, and ensure that this research is shared with policymakers, scientists, and the Canadian public.

The leap: try applying the idea of the tangible interface as a way of managing collaboration between scholars in an interesting way. Using physical blocks, you can set up relationships by interest area. And they have a cool name:

Collaboratron [NiCHE Site]
More at the creators’ blogs: Devon Elliott + Adam Crymble / Thoughts on Public History

Tokyo: The Tangible Game

Location: Erlangen, Germany


Michael of i3games was inspired by a wooden block rendition of the Tokyo skyline, available from Japanese design shop Muji. Using Trackmate and Processing, he is starting a game involving the blocks. Perhaps a tangible Sim City? I’m not sure yet, but he has extensive documentation and some technical tips and supply ideas at his noisepages site:

One especially hot tip: PeasyCam makes it much easier dealing with the camera (the virtual one that looks at your screen, not your webcam) in Processing.

LusiDice: Dungeons and Dragons, Tangible Edition

Location: Castel Maggiore, Italy

Via noisepages, sirmmo has a fascinating project in store:

I just started a Lusid-based Dice system for DnD (this means d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20). At the moment it is still very basic, but work in progress!

I love the idea, so Marco Montanari, if you’re out there, I’m curious how this went!

Fritzcrate: Musical (and Colorful) Soda Bottles

Location: Hamburg, Germany

Fritzcrate Project / lusidLearn Early Demo from Michael Schieben on Vimeo.

Guys named Michael in Germany, collectively, win the first hackday.

Michael Schieben, working with designer Christophe Stoll
of Precious Forever (the brilliant design consultancy that has worked on elegant UI design for Future Audio Workshop and Native Instruments), turned his attention to lovely colored Fritz Cola soda bottles. That involved getting the tracking software to work with MIDI for use with software like the synth Circle and Ableton Live.

Below, Michael came up with a concept that used the bottles for all-visual feedback. (There’s code for the RGB Mixer, too – a great example of a simple Processing sketch to make this work.) It’d be interesting to see the visual concept fused with the music idea — and perhaps that’s what he has in mind. I’ll be staying tuned.

If you visit only one of the noisepages projects, this one has a ton of stuff on it:

Fritzcrate Project / RGB Color Mixer from Michael Schieben on Vimeo.

Also, Michael, I really adore this photo (via Twitpic).


Musical Interface in a Floor Tom

Location: Canberra, NSW, Australia


The prize for most ingenious housing goes to percussionist Charles Martin, who used a floor tom. It looks fantastic, and makes me wonder if the actual sound of the drum could be worked in somehow. Charles reports tracking is a bit of a problem with the current head (though I will say, I found the larger reacTIVision tags worked better than the Trackmate ones in some of the trickier situations, so it might be worth giving them a go).

Details at Charles’ project post on his blog, including tips for connecting Trackmate with SuperCollider and with Pd (both free and open source synthesis tools) – and he even has a whole SuperCollider test script.

Check out chuck_notorious on Flickr for photos.

Tangible Drawing

Location: Oklahoma City, OK, USA


Working in Processing, Luke Loeffler experimented with using tangible objects as a drawing interface. I love the idea, and these look like the ideal first-step results. (Interpolation, I believe, is in fact the answer – in any drawing program, but doubly so when using camera input.) Of course, this opens up all sorts of other possibilities, like using the optical input on the camera to read colors or textures in addition to the tags.

Notes from Flickr… (and check out the amount of control you then have with these different tangible “tools”):

These are the small objects I had laying around–two tea candles, some medicine bottles, etc. The green and yellow candles became green and yellow brushes; one bottle was a pen whose opacity and hue were set by the rotation of two other bottles. For each pen or brush (candles) the radius was set by the rotation of the object. Lastly, a white bottle cap was an eraser.

This is one of the resulting ‘paintings’ from my very first trackmate project. The lines are broken up due to the low resolution of the camera (this could have possibly been solved with interpolation). I need to calibrate the camera again (and really, buy a cam with a res higher than 640×480), and find a better surface that will filter some of the ‘noise’ from the scene. Still, trackmate behaved remarkably well given the circumstances.

Hands on in NYC

Location: Houston and Varick, at New Work City, NYC

The NYC hackday was like a mass meetup. It became a sort of conduit for information and tips on what was working and not working with tracking, which I’ll be compiling and documenting over coming days.

But I think my favorite moment was watching these kids play with the interface. Watching kids interact with something often gives you a fresh perspective – even on how adults (and you) might use something, as well as young’ns.

Your Project? The Future?

If you worked on a project at the beginning of June related to our tangible hackday and we didn’t cover it here, let us know about it! You can contact us via

And since a lot of these projects were just saying “Hello, World!”, we’ll be very anxious to see how they evolve.

Stay tuned for the Hackday Follow-up Event, as we all develop the projects we started.

10 Responses

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