Project Research- Softwares


I will need a Software to process the data collected by the microcontroller or the web cam, and consequently to control the animation.

I look into this few softwares to check if there were suitable for my needs.



Isadora is a graphic programming environment that provides interactive control over digital media, with special emphasis on the real-time manipulation of digital video. In my project this could quite easily trigger and control a video (animation).

However this one would be more adequate for a sound installation with graphic manipulation.


Quartz Composer

This free visual tool makes some sophisticated video and 3D possible without coding…. Waow…It is free and comes with the Mac OS disc in the tool developer section.

This is The Tool for VJing and to create some reactive/interactive animation with a web cam.  As I am not to keen on using a web cam, I am afraid I would not have a go on it this year…Snifffff




Free and easy to use.

I could easily create a sketch together with tracking motion triggering and controlling an animation. I really recommend this tool for project with Web cam, unfortunately it is PC only……..



Project Research- Microcontroller

Now that I know what I want to do, I need to to concentrate on what do I need to create this interactive artefact.

If I decide to use a sensor of any kind I will need to plug it to a device, which will control and collect data from it. That is called a Microcontroller.



Which one should I go for?


One of my teachers is a big fan of the phidget interface. I do know if I ask him an advice, the answer is going to be Phidget. However I went on the UK website and check if this will be suitable.


The Phidgets are the user-friendliest system available for controlling and sensing the environment from computer. The Phidget Interface Kit is very versatile, it seems .

Analog inputs can be used to measure continuous quantities, such as temperature, humidity, position, pressure, etc. There are many sensors in the Phidgets product line that require no assembly, you just buy and plug, and you will more likely find some codes in the .com website. This little device seems very easy to handle, a lot easier than Arduino. Most of the sensors comes with cables design to be plugged to the interface in a very steady way, this is a big advantage against the Arduino.

Now there is no Ultrasound sensors or foot switch in the Phidget product line, so I will still have to choose independent one.

The other backside is a of tutorials, or example connecting this kind of independent sensors to the Phidget interface. It is very sad indeed, because that device seems more reliable than the Arduino. 

Definitely a item to keep in mind for some future project



I believe this microcontroller is one of the cheapest in the market. You can plug nearly everything. However I did found it fiddly, and not always reliable. The major attraction I think is the community, what ever your project is about you will find somewhere some code for the Arduino.

Arduino is an open platform that can communicate with a large number of other software packages to manipulate data in different ways according to the needs. Some examples of software are MAX MSP, Pure Data, Isadora, VVVV, Eyesweb, Processing, Flash , …

Because of this huge community online, I believe I am going to stick and try again to work with it…hopefully for the best.


Project Research-Sensors

First I need to decide what kind of sensors will be idle for my project


When the spectators get close enough to the painting, the animation start. Consequently we need something, which can found out where the spectator is in relation to the screen. This interaction will give the computer the ability to sense the position of the spectator in space.


Detecting Presence


Web cam


My first thought was to use a web cam to detect motion, unfortunately the information would not be accurate enough, and I am not sure how the camera will handle more than one visitor at the time. This will create more problems, especially regarding the environment. If I choose to use a web cam with some software such as Isadora, Eyesweb or even Quartz Composer I would need to constrain the space to make the most effective use of it. Only one person at the time would be allowed, which will take away the surprised effect, the unexpected will be in a way expected.


Foot Switch

This  device is very straightforward, and will trigger any action within a small area. One of the most common type is made of long stripes of metal separated by foam tape. When someone step s on these sensors, the foam tapes is compressed and the metal strips are touching each other’s.

This seems a cool website to get that kind of switch, but to be honest I do not dare asking for the price

The mat switch would be idle underneath a carpet, but I believe my budget would not allow it.


Determining Position


Infrared (IR)

IR sensors are very good for short distance sensors. These kind of sensors send out an infrared beam and read the reflection of the beam off a target, in our case the spectators.  Sharp IR sensors have been recommended in some books such as “Physical Computing” By Dan O’Sullivan and Tom Igoe. 

Some ranging formula comes from an excellent article on Acroname’s site.


Unfortunately the range cover by this kinds of sensor is too small up to 1.4m.  As I need to sense presence about 2 to 3 meter. Consequently the only alternative is the Ultrasonic sensor.


What I will need, I believe is a Range Sensor


Most of those sensors send out some form of energy, to be able to read the distance from a target. This could be light, magnetism or even sound. Those sensors will convert the distance into an electrical voltage or digital signal, which can be read by a microcontroller.

Similar principal of a airplane radar. This system operates by sending out a radio signal and measure the time it takes to bounce back from a target.



Short for “Radio Detection and Ranging: Radar, like sonar, uses a pulse of radio energy to map distance based on the length of time it takes the pulse to return from the source. Radar is based on the principle of sending very long wavelength radiation (called microwaves) from an antenna, and then detecting that energy after it bounces off a remote target. The wavelength of the microwave, its strength can be measured when it returns.


The radar will allow me to calculate the exact positions of visitors, and consequently will trigger the animation at the right time.


How much and where could I found it?

I have been told that will cost me about £200 to £300, well as much as I like the module, the student Loan would not pay for that.


Will it work with Arduino or the Phiget interface?

I could not found much information, but the price put me off quite a bit.




They work like sonar device, sending out a ping of ultra sound, and then time how long it takes to bounce back. This kind of little device can read from 6 inch to 6 feet. . They use an initiation pin and echo pin. In the code we will have to set the initiation pin high, then use a rctime command on the echo pin to measure how long it takes to return the ultrasound.

The Daventech SRF family seems to be very popular in the robotic world (amateur’s one of course). One of the cheapest one is the SRF04.  We will need to set the init pin high, and then wait for the ping to come back. Now to determine the distance we will need to divide the time taken by the speed of sound in the microcontroller’s software.

This sensor going to be perfect, I believe, if I decide to use the Arduino microcontroller. This little tool will provide very accurate ranging information.


I found a very good guide in the “physical Computing” by Dan O’Sullivan and Tom Igoe book, which might help us if we decide to use this kind of sensors.

My Project – MONA LISA

We had to introduce our ideas about the next individual project.

The audience has chosen my “Mona Lisa” project, Humour and simplicity won the challenge.

Simplicity, The art of complexity


 MONA LISA- You’ve been watched


 mONA LISA- Pfffuuuu!


I do like the thought of having this very serious Madam reacting un-promptly to the visitor. 


How to realise this little attraction?

·     Should I use a Web-cam with Isadora or even quartz Composer? 

·     Or Should I use the combination of a sensor + Microcontroller + a processing software to handle the images?

·    Which Sensor? Ultrasound, IR or even step sensor?

·    Which microcontroller? Arduino, Phiget?

·    Which software? Quartz Composer, Flash?


It does fell like a Chinese puzzle…



The other night I had this idea of hijacking an old painting and created an interaction around it. I especially thought about Mona Lisa, well-known illusion of her eyes following you. My first idea was to use a couple of motors attached to some plastic eyes controlled through a microcontroller such as the Arduino. Some sensors, ultrasonic, could trigger the motors for example.

So I did some research on the subject, try to found out if it has been done and how?


IBOX By Brian Legg, Ben Gemborys and others


The Ibox is an interactive artwork, which uses sound, light and touch to translate and communicate the relationship between the sensitivity of human eye to a robotic one.

This robotic eye placed in a wooden box uses two servomotors, a relay and microcontroller I believe. The eyes is reacting and interacting with the viewers, light and sound.  Here we are facing robotic art, but could we really called it art? Heum….a big part of me is tempted to say no, the other part is accepting the piece as art with a big But….but after all who cares, I do not think we should.


 (copy and paste the link)

“Behind The Apple”


This installation was made around the painting “The Listening Room” by the surrealist René Magritte. Viewers moving toward the apple made it shrink. When the visitors come close enough a picture is taken and shown in a frame on the wall behind the apple (in the painting itself). The use of old Artwork for an installation is a great idea. I like the playfulness around it.


In similar way I am really thinking of using Mona Lisa, I know you might found it very kitsch but that is why I found it interesting. If you look at my portfolio (next Page) you will see illustrations of what I have in mind. In a way it relate to pop art, highly visual, rich syntheses of Pop culture (the Rolling Stone). It does remind me as well, the late 90’s with the explosion of net art using similar concept.


How this could be done?

Ultrasonic range finder + flash

This video found in Youtube is maybe the solutio, or at least a way to realize this project. Ultrasonic range finder is used to detect distance of object form it and data is processed in flash. This application seems quite smooth, nevertheless I am not convince that Ultrasonic sensor is the solution.




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