January 14, 2012
Over the past two weeks I've been involved in the construction of an Art Shanty Project called the DancyShanty.
Art Shanty Projects is a four-week exhibition that is part sculpture park, part artist residency and part social experiment, inspired by traditional ice fishing houses that dot the state's lakes in winter. It is an artist driven temporary community exploring the ways in which the relatively unregulated public space of the frozen lake can be used as a new and challenging artistic environment to expand notions of what art can be.
The DanceShanty, an innocuous white structure on a frozen lake, draws you inside with music and the sound of people having fun. As you enter you are invited to hangup your coat and dance!
My part in the DanceShanty was to design the lighting system for the project. Hans Scharler of ioBridge/ThingSpeak had shared the Cheerlights project with me where people have interconnected strands of GE Color Effects LED lights using ThingSpeak and a variety of communications components including Digi ConnectPort X2 Internet-to-ZigBee gateways and of course, good ol' Digi XBee radios.
I love lights. A hackable strand of full-color RGB Christmas lights are a dream come true. I found a strand of 25 lights for $25 at Sears. A little Processing and Arduino code (using my friend Rob Faludi's excellent book, of course!) and I had a prototype working in an evening. Using an SparkFun XBee Shield and a pair of Series 1 XBee Radios I was able to made the whole setup wireless—and able to hide away the PC from view while being able to maintain a connection to the lights. I work for Digi, so every design screams like it needs to be made wireless.
I am going to do a full tech write-up with source-code soon. The laptop I have in the DanceShanty now is old and slow and only able to run the display at about 10 frames per second. The Arduino code I wrote is able to run four synchronized strands of lights at well over 30 frames per second as you can see from the below staging video:
Before the DanceShanty comes down I am going to write a quick mobile app and connect the setup to people via iDigi in order to allow people dancing to choose the color and visualization mode of the lights. It's going to be sweet!