26 April 2011

Processing Paris

Woo hoo! Went to another Processing workshop, this time in bohemian Paris.
Unfortunately haven't had a chance to stay too long, but I love the city:
warm, colourful, busy, dirty. For some reason Parisians seemed a lot more chilled out
than Londoners and I definitely enjoyed the vibe.

I attended the Masterclass at Processing Paris taught by Hartmut Bohnacker. The workshop
focused mostly on Physics simulations. The first day Verlet and Rigid Rody Physics systems were explained, with pros and cons for each. We used multiple implementations:
coding from scratch or using libraries (like traer, toxiclibs, JBox2D and the Fisica wrapper.

It was a pretty cool workshop and I promise update this post later with resource.
The people there were great! Had the chance to meet Andreas Gysin, Miguel Vaz, Will Ismael, Bert Balcaen and many other. The awesome part was I had a chance to chat with the talented Nicolas Barradeau whom I had the pleasure to see on stage at Flash On The Beach. Check out Nicolas' post with some handy resources and thoughts as an actionscript developer jumping into Processing. Met Mathilde who was kind enough to share knowledge on technology/choreography and how they blend and met Coline from whom I got to know a bit more about Digital Agencies in Paris.

Unfortunately there's a lot of things that keep me busy so I won't be able to go into great detail for now.


Ok, it's been a couple of weeks since Processing Pars, and I didn't expect to be this busy or that documenting a few sketches will take so long.

I started out with the Fisica Wrapper, which was easy to setup and made a polar grid/spider web
You can use the q/a/w/s keys to change the paramaters a bit, also you can drag nodes around.
Note: You will need the Java Runtime to see the sketches in realtime. Also, some might require you to trust/allow access to your microphone to pickup the sound.

I tried some basic FFT analysis using the Minim Library:

FFT Polar Plot from George Profenza on Vimeo.

Run this sketch here

Then used that affect the nodes in the grid:

Audio reactive spider web from George Profenza on Vimeo.

Run this one here

And since I started using Lee Byron's Mesh Library and I didn't have to worry about connecting the nodes manually and keeping track of indices, I randomized the grid a bit:

Audio reactive drunken spider web from George Profenza on Vimeo.

This sketch is available here.

DigitalShoreditch is progress and I have to dash to see the lovely people from SketchPatch to get involved with a Processing session.


20 April 2011


At the start of the year, I got involved in a pretty interesting group purchase: a MakerBot. Makerbot essentially is an affordable 3D printer. It's clearly not a fancy and expensive ZCorp, but it is a solution for 3D prototyping.

The group is formed of very talented people from design, development, animation and architecture backgrounds and this was the initiative of Fiddian Warman. I wasn't sure why Soda sounded so familiar, then I remembered we learned about SodaPlay in the Digital Media course I was doing back in Canterbury a few years go, so it's pretty damn cool to work with great people you study about :)

I feel a lot of interesting projects will emerge from this group known as 3DQuorum.

Here are a few materials documenting our progress with building the Makerbot:

Image 'kindly borrowed' from Kirsten Campbell

Here's a short video of the Makerbot running:

Makerbot thing-0-matic first moves from fiddian on Vimeo.

To be honest, I didn't expect it to run from the first go, but tests went surprisingly well so far.

Looking forward to get some of my weird geometries print ready and out in the real world.
Luckily there are a couple of useful Processing libraries out there, like codethread by diatom studio and Marius Watz's(Makerbot artist in residence) ModelBuilder.

Speaking of diatom studio, they have a very cool project called SketchChair which allows everybody to easily sketch, test/simulate and physically create a chair. Pretty impressive!

If you find this project interesting, you can get involved and help out on kickstarter.

29 March 2011

Computatonal Design using toxiclibs

I had the chance to attend a brilliant workshop at the V&A taught by the amazing Karsten Schmidt.

The workshop every Tuesday from the start of February to the start of March it covered a lot interesting topics. That was partly because, we, as attendees were coming from different backgrounds: Mathematics, Graphic Design, Web Development, GIS, Digital Arts, Architecture, etc.

Since the majority did not have background in programming, we started with the basics, and managed to get some bouncing shapes on the screen, which is not a bad start.

Then we moved on to recursion and symmetry, which was a bit of a mental exercise for some to fully absorb through code, but as the saying goes: "To understand recursion, you must first understand recursion".

The course moved to more advanced topics like Spring (Verlet) Physics, which we later applied to simple data visualisation using clusters. Here is a sample which loads a csv file containing attendee names and a table id:

As the projects got more complex we moved from the minimal Processing IDE to Eclipse.
After learning how to use external Java libraries, like JFlickr (a java wrapper for the Flickr API) we used geolocation data to plot images on a sphere:

The part I enjoyed the most was moving to 3D and procedural modeling. Karsten was kind enough to bring his CraftRobo and an unwrapping library he is working on. What this means is, we could generate 3D structures on a computer, which could be unwrapped into 2D to be cut and folded in paper and assembled in 3D in the real world. Pretty impressive stuff!

21 February 2011

High Tech at Bistrotheque

Daniel held another full day of learning and making. From wiring, to soldering, to Physical Computing with Arduino (yes, hardware and software), it was a trial for the lovely participants, but they've made it. I was amazed to see people put so much effort, but it paid off. People with no prior knowledge of electronics or programming managed to get their Digital Creatures up and running.

I must admit assisting this event was easier than for the Kinetica Artfair, but the audience was different as well. At Kinetica we had a few kids too, and it's hard not to worry when there's a hot metal soldering iron involved.

Keep your eyes on the Technology Will Save Us news for more. By the way, there's another
in March on DIY Speakers. See you there!

Oh, and if you want to get started with Processing and Arduino, and you want it now, check out the OpenLab Workshops.

14 February 2011

Generative Desgin for the physical world

Recently I started looking at 3D from different points of view and got a taste for the Physical World. While it's relatively easy to make abstract models that will live in a virtual world, the same does not apply for the this world.

I went to a pretty interesting workshop recently: Generative Design for Robotic Manufacture.The goal was to learn how to take paper folded prototypes into Rhino, parameterize them using Grasshopper, do verlet physics simulations using Kangaroo and hopefully use Lobster IK to simulate the robot movements too. This workflow would help tweak prototypes before they could finally be produced by RoboFold robots.

Grasshopper surprised me in a nice way, with an intuitive visual programming interface similar to Xpresso or better yet, MaxMSP.

I heard "parametrize" this and "parametric" that without knowing for sure. Well, it turns out that "parameter" is architect lingo for "variable" with was comforting.

The workshop kicked off with making paper prototypes. The goal was to play with different techniques(like repetitions, intersections,etc.) to get a feel for what can what can't be done and what kind of folds restrict movement and how. It was a very interesting process. The computer might make some aspects easier, but nothing beats the world world (so far). I am easily fooled that the computer is much more than a tool, using it on a daily basis, but I was pleasantly surprised by the process of using indispensable simple design tools. I didn't need any manual to use them(pen,paper,ruler and scalpel.), I could dive right an quickly prototype.

The next step was to scan a design and get it into Rhino, from there we exported models to .dxf so we can also try them in Rigid Origami. The process sounded easy, just marking mountain and valley folds in red and blue lines for Rigid Origami, but in practice I found that simpler designs worked better than complex ones which did not work at all. You can see a screen grab from Rhino showing the same fold pattern in 3 version, one simpler than the other. Also, I've added a couple of images from Rigid Origami. The next step was to create a parametric version in Grashpopper, which is why the surface was ruled mostly using even steps. After that we played with Kangaroo to get a feel for doing physical simulations on the model.

scanned surface drawn in Rhino

scanned surface imported in Rigid Origami

The second day we got paired to design surfaces that would fit a pretty nifty window pattern. I got paired with Dr Kontovourkis Odysseas who teaches Architecture at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus. I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed at the workshop, not only by the amount of new information (which made me wish I picked up Rhino/Grasshopper earlier), but also by the rest of the attendees. I was the youngest, and came from a pretty different background, where the closest thing would be making 3D models in an abstract world. Most of the attendees were architects from different parts of Europe. Most of them were German speakers, although they weren't from Germany. My colleague was kind enough to get me up to speed with Grasshopper and we started using designs from the previous day to fit on the window pattern.

Again simplicity won. Initially we had a folding with quite a few folds in, but it turned out not only it was hard to parameterize, but it also wasn't very scalable. We started from scratch and got a parametric design.

parameterized design in Grasshopper

It was a challenging experience, but a fulfilling one. The talented people at Metropoltan Works were a pleasure to learn from and I was impressed with their facilities for 3D scanning and printing.

I seem to find cutting and creasing paper very relaxing and I enjoy the different type of thought process. Looks like I found a way to do 3D, but spend a bit more time away from the computer.

7 February 2011

Kinetica Art Fair 2011

Kinetica Art Fair
is one of the biggest artist/maker fairs in the UK. There were a lot of great project, a lot of people and a wonderful vibe in general.

This year was a different for me, because I had the opportunity to participate, not just view the Art Fair this year. Daniel Hirscmann invited me to join Technology Will Save Us for the weekend to assist the workshop. There were multiple workshops including an awesome one on DMX Lighting with Arduino. DMX is a protocol somewhat similar to MIDI used in theatre/performances to control lights/smoke machines/etc. but can be used for light based responsive art installations or similar projects. The I helped with was a bit more basics: a soldering workshop, which allowed to people to learn how to solder, buy building one of these fun little toys Daniel and Mike designed, called the Lumiphone. The workshops were packed with people, young and old.

Here are Daniel's photos from the event:

and here are some random pieces from the show:

For more workshops be sure to check Technology Will Save Us