Art concept in need of electrical engineering assistance

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axolotl
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Art concept in need of electrical engineering assistance

Post by axolotl » Sun Mar 19, 2006 10:40 pm

I have an idea for an art project but I don't yet have the technical knowledge to make it happen- or even to determine whether it would be doable.
It's something that requires pretty advanced knowledge of electronic components, but I can't just look it up somewhere because I would not using them in a normal way at all.

The tricky part is there needs to be wireless communication, but not 'data transfer.'
All the units need to do is sense how many others are within a certain (approximate) distance, and which of 2 or 3 states they are in.

Any soldering-iron gurus, homebrew hardware hackers, BEAM robotics wizards, or FCC-unapproved mad RC transmitter scientists out there...?

If you or one of your friends can help me out, I will not only be immensely grateful but I will also help you out painting or sculpting whatever you might need for your project or camp.
(stereotypical electrical engineers tend to have trouble in the aesthetics department, as artists have trouble with the technical...)

Send me a PM if this sounds like your kind of problem, and I will explain in more detail what I'm trying to make here.

robotland
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Post by robotland » Mon Mar 20, 2006 4:48 pm

First of all, get talking with THESE guys.

http://www.makezine.com/
Howdy From Kalamazoo

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axolotl
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Post by axolotl » Tue Mar 21, 2006 9:52 pm

Already a subscriber- I think I will build a couple of the wind turbines in the current issue, to power LED lights at night.
I'll try asking on their forum, though, since there haven't been any responses here. Thanks...

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gyre
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Post by gyre » Thu Mar 23, 2006 11:37 am

This is a practical idea. I'm just not sure of the best way to do it currently.
Ask the question on another section and contact the village that does this sort of thing.
"Everything is more wonderful when you do it with a car, don't you think?"
-girl by the fire, watching a tree moved by car bumper in the bonfire

It would be a shame if I had to resort to self-deception to preserve my faith in objective reality.

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bringer
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Post by bringer » Thu Mar 23, 2006 11:43 am

As far as identifying how many people, you could go with the micro-power impulse radar.
Pricy for a finished unit, but I've heard of electrical engineering students building them off the shelf.
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robotland
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Post by robotland » Thu Mar 23, 2006 3:56 pm

axolotl wrote:Already a subscriber- I think I will build a couple of the wind turbines in the current issue, to power LED lights at night.
I'll try asking on their forum, though, since there haven't been any responses here. Thanks...
Cool...Meanwhile, here's a thought- Cheapo Remote-Control Vehicle Interferometry. First, pick up a cluster of el-cheapo RC vehicles at your friendly neighborhood flea market/thrift store/American Science And Surplus store (if you're lucky!) or other serendipitous reusage retailer. Then use the remote-controller as the sender, and the whatever-toys as the "catchers". OR, the other way 'round. MAKE subscriber, I need NOT hip you to HOW.
Howdy From Kalamazoo

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Post by evonne » Wed Mar 29, 2006 11:45 pm

If you're in LA I have people for you....where do you need folks?

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axolotl
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Post by axolotl » Thu Mar 30, 2006 1:27 am

Oh, I don't need any -physical- help, I was just looking for people who could suggest general approaches and specific components, and whom I could bug with technical questions when it inevitably failed to work right.

Anyway; I think I have to put this project on hold for some other year, because it will cost a lot of money to do and ( after the IRS ate this year's refund ) I will just barely be able to get myself there. It's dubious at this point. :?

Actually every art project I think of ends up costing too much money. Especially anything mobile or interactive.

I should find some dirt-cheap material that I can make into something cool through the application of time, skill, and manual labor. Maybe harvest a whole trailerfull of reeds from a local marsh and create some kind of epic wicker topologies?

I have seen the pictures from past years, and the level of all of the art that's already been done is intimidating, but I feel like I have to do something. I know I don't want to be this guy:

Image

(I'm always that guy.)

And besides- if this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight; right...?

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Zhust
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Re: Art concept in need of electrical engineering assistance

Post by Zhust » Thu Mar 30, 2006 8:13 am

axolotl wrote:The tricky part is there needs to be wireless communication, but not 'data transfer.' All the units need to do is sense how many others are within a certain (approximate) distance, and which of 2 or 3 states they are in.
Don't worry about it, but that is data transfer, albeit not very much. I was thinking about the parameters of the problem:
  • * Short range (around 10 feet I'd guess)
    * Ability to isolate and identify some number of other units (I'm thinking you mean fewer than 10)
    * Ability to receive some small amount of information from other units
Radio is the way to go with this, and I started thinking along the lines of short range transmissions. Very low power radio would be one way -- like an AM Mr. Microphone or something, but it gets sticky trying to isolate the data between units (i.e. if they're all on 600 KHz then how do you find more than one?) If you give each a different channel, then every receiver will have to be able to discern different frequencies ... hacking/building a digital AM receiver with different channels is not out of the question.

However, the thought struck me that RFID technology may be the way to go. It has all the features you want and more. The only trick is getting all the pieces at a reasonable price.

In any case, browsing around at SparkFun.com might suit your needs.
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axolotl
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Post by axolotl » Tue Apr 04, 2006 7:03 pm

I've been thinking some more about this. Think I am still going to go low-tech for this year for financial reasons, but I can at least get it planned out for later...

There would be more than 10 units, I'm actually thinking of more than 100...
And I want them all to be interchangeable so it can scale without limit- I could just keep making more and have it grow over time...

So that means no individual 'adresses'. Instead, I have one antenna tuned to recieve 'pings' on one frequency, and another tuned to recieve 'pongs' on another frequency. All the units are sending out pings OR pongs (depending what state they are in) at a certain fixed rate- but each one is a very short pulse, and they are all out of sync. There would be timers counting up how many of each come in in a certain time period, and sending these numbers to a microcontroller, which would run through series of rules comparing the two numbers and then either switch the unit from one state to the other, or not.

The inspiration for this is Conway's Game of Life. You have 'cells' that turn on or off depending on their neighbors- only in this case it's not a square grid, it's a scattered network, and instead of on a computer screen, they're sitting there on the playa. Anyone can (and should!) pick up and move the cells around and this will change the pattern...

I'm going to start off simulating this in Max/MSP and then Flash to see if it at least works in theory first.

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Zhust
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Post by Zhust » Tue Apr 04, 2006 10:54 pm

axolotl wrote:So that means no individual 'adresses'. Instead, I have one antenna tuned to recieve 'pings' on one frequency, and another tuned to recieve 'pongs' on another frequency. All the units are sending out pings OR pongs (depending what state they are in) at a certain fixed rate- but each one is a very short pulse, and they are all out of sync.
So then maybe the primitive radio transmitter/receiver pair might not be so out of the question. Pings and pongs would be on different channels, and you'd just have the transmitters beam with a cadence of, say, once every two seconds for 0.01 seconds and the receivers would just count 0.01-second pulses for 2 seconds at a clip and take a stab at how many pings and how many pongs there are in the vicinity.

There's even some commodity RF IC's out there that could suit your needs quite well. Heck, a microcontroller might be able to toggle an output fast enough to hit around 100 KHz pretty accurately ... tack on a stubby antenna and your range would only be a couple feet. (RF engineers can start screaming now.)

In the words of those awful Linux admins, "it's really quite simple." (No holy wars please, it's all in jest.)
May your deeds return to you tenfold,
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Post by Keeper_of_the Key » Fri May 05, 2006 5:57 pm

AX,

You must be reading my mind... I was talking to a buddy of mine about a VERY similar project. My idea is to somehow track everyone at BM on a display of some kind. There would be an overlay of the streets, etc. and that people would see dots moving around as the people moved around. If there was something interesting going on in a certain area, there would be a large accumulation of dots on the screen there.

Someone actually suggested that you assign the gals one color of dot, the guys a different color and people who weren't sure could have a third color. That way you could even tell what kind of crowd was in the mix. I think if you could get a large enough display, or hook enough displays together, it would make for one continuously evolving piece of art that really emulates Big Brother watching over you... now THAT's scary...

The question is how to accomplish all this, and more importantly, how do you get everyone to continually, actively participate in this project.

I thought about having multiple screens around the streets, maybe 4 or so, and maybe one other LARGE screen. The way to accomplish this is VERY difficult... to a degree. If this is along the lines of what you are thinking, let me know... I'd be VERY insterested in talking about this more. I don't know that it's something that can be gotten together for this year. I was thinking more along the lines for next year's BM.

Lemme know what you think
David
"You can't always get what you want... but sometimes you get what you need." - - The Stones

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Post by Zhust » Mon May 08, 2006 9:08 am

Keeper_of_the Key wrote:Someone actually suggested that you assign the gals one color of dot, the guys a different color and people who weren't sure could have a third color.
Screw that -- show me "yahoos," "participants," "performers," and "artists".
May your deeds return to you tenfold,
---Zhust, Curiosityist

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Post by regionalchaos » Mon May 08, 2006 4:24 pm

Keeper_of_the Key wrote:My idea is to somehow track everyone at BM on a display of some kind.
It is my understanding that marine radar units can already do this, and that they may already be employed in order to catch people wandering around out by the trash fence.
Participate! - )'( -

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