These Interactive Exhibits Showcase Embedded Technologies in a Fun Way

Let's celebrate Art Month with some of our favorite exhibits and sculptures that incorporate hardware in interesting ways.

Exhibits, sculptures, and Art Month

Creating new projects is not limited to merely building utilitarian robots or IoT devices, but rather, it includes producing fun and creative works of art as well. For Art Month on Hackster.io, we have gathered a list of some of our favorite projects, which incorporated embedded circuitry in a novel way to produce interactive exhibits and sculptures.

Quo vadis

Those suffering from dementia often want to reminisce about previous experiences and reenact those fun adventures. Quo Vadis by FRONT404 is an interactive boat that caters to residents of an island-based retirement community. When inside the boat's accurately modeled cabin, they are able to look out the front via a large screen and even pilot the craft thanks to its mock wheel. By using an Arduino Uno in concert with a MotorShield, the interior can be filled with an array of switches, lights, and a vintage radio for playing familiar sounds.

Possessed portrait

This special "painting" made by Dominick Marino was intended to celebrate Halloween with a jump scare. He started by building a frame around an old 19" LCD panel and then tucking a Raspberry Pi 3 within it. A simple passive infrared (PIR) sensors was added to detect when a person walks up to the painting, which triggers the scare. Marino selected a set of three Unliving Portrait videos from AtmosFX and placed them along with their respective stills into folders. When the Python script is run, changes on the PIR sensor's output pin causes the video to be played.

In servos we trust (X Cube)

In a mere six months, Moushira went from a proposed challenge involving a dynamic, reflective cube, to a complex structure with a total of 550 parts in constant motion. Each reflective piece is connected to a single servo motor, which then be rotated either up or down. When pairing this motion with changes to timing, speed, and the behaviors of other adjacent motors, incredible patterns can emerge. And best of all, a whole panel of motors within X Cube is controlled by a single Arduino Uno in conjunction with three PCA9865 motor drivers connected via I2C.

Globe trotter

Countless people enjoy exploring the world virtually through services such as Google Earth. However, simply clicking on destinations can get boring, so Caroline Buttet created the Globe Trotter project instead. This interactive device allows users to first select their country of choice using a set of conductive pads and a capacitive touch sensor connected to an Arduino Micro. The accompanying webpage then gives instructions for when to spin the globe in order to swipe through each image.

Servo motor artwork

Similar to the X Cube, this exhibit, made by Doug Domke, instead utilizes a set of 36 servo motors mounted onto pegboard that rotate lines to form interesting shapes. Three 16-channel PWM controllers were attached to an Arduino Uno and programmed to move to their respective positions. Some designs have included waves, zig-zags, oscillating triangles, and even a spiral. Dome also added five ultrasonic distance sensors for an optional interactive feature.

A picture that knows when it's being photographed

Everyone is used to approaching a painting and snapping a quick photo of it with their phone. Artist Tauno Erik, however, has flipped this concept around by giving the art a way to know when it is being photographed. The frame contains an Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sensor with an accompanying OV7670 camera module for gathering low-resolution images. When the Nano has determined its picture is being taken thanks to a machine learning model, it activates the antique Soviet-era doorbell circuit and illuminates several LEDs.

Colors of photons

Works of art tend to be static objects that are unable to change their appearance over time, which is what inspired Janos Magyar and Eva Konya to design their Colors of Photons exhibit. Each painting started life as a painting composed of swirling, brilliant swaths of color encased in a white frame- all created by Eva. Magyar then attached a string of LEDs within the edge of each frame and wired them up to either an Arduino Uno or a Particle Photon for the more advanced version. From here, each piece could have its colors adjusted wirelessly or programmed to produce a sequence of changes.

SURFACE X

Coming in as one of the largest works of art in this list, SURFACE X is a massive interactive installation created by Picaroon, which aims to address the differences between our virtual and real-world selves. The structure starts out with all of its umbrellas fully expanded as a way to conceal the interior. Then once an umbrella's PIR sensor is triggered by a person, an Arduino MEGA 2560 triggers it to fold inwards, thus exposing what lies beneath. Eventually, the PIR sensor returns to normal that makes the umbrella return to its original state.

The magic cauldron

In response to a request from his wife for an enhanced fortune telling prop, Ian McKay built the Magic Cauldron that can interact with the user in a special way. The brass cauldron contains a false bottom that houses an Arduino Uno, a few batteries, and an ultrasonic distance sensor. Spells are determined by measuring the time an object spends at a certain distance, and this causes the internal neopixel ring to illuminate in that spell's color.

Blinkdom

Built for the 2016 San Antonio Maker Faire, Blinkdom is Brett Elmendorf's large-format display made from repurposed plastic bottles. It features a grid comprised of 1200 total RGB LEDs that all connect to a central control circuit, which is able to push colors at a blistering 30 frames per second. New images and videos can be loaded onto a Raspberry Pi 3 over the network where it then gets pushed to the specialized PixelPusher hardware for display on the LED grid.

Human at work

Working in the 21st century now involves ample amounts of typing, and with that, comes boredom, distractions, and even anger. "Human at Work" by Astrid Kraniger explores this concept with a simple robot that uses one arm to push a blue button repeatedly. After doing this monotonous task for a while, it moves onto displaying signs of strong emotions when it can't continue perfectly carrying out its task. The underlying hardware is built from an Arduino Nano and two servo motors.

An ASCII art installation

Back in the days before graphical displays were common, people would use ASCII characters arranged in certain patterns to create images. As a tribute to this old technique and the author Hunter S. Thompson, Roni Bandinicreated a fun exhibit incorporating both. It works by first selecting a random paragraph from Thompson's book Feat and Loathing and typing it out letter-by-letter along with typewriter sound effects. Once the paragraph is finished, the screen is cleared and filled with an ASCII art picture of Thompson with the help of Aview.

Reflecting on our plastic pollution

Our billions of tons of plastic pollution are having an enormous impact on the animals that live in the ocean. In time, these larger pieces degrade into microplastics where they wreak even more havoc on the entire ecosystem, including humans. Plastic Reflectic is a collaborative project, which houses a total of 600 water-resistant servo motors that each hold a piece of trash that rises when the servo rotates upwards. An Xbox Kinect camera system tracks where the observer is and their pose, which is then mirrored by the trash below.

Kinetic images made of cans

Like the previous entry, Alain Haerri'sMoving Cans Board exhibit aims to create a reflection of what's in front of it using servo motors. But instead of raising objects to be seen, this one changes how reflective the 24 x 24 grid of aluminum cans is. Thanks to the 24 Pololu Maestro modules and an Arduino Mega 2560 board, the 576 servo motors can tilt up or down in response to the image coming from the OV7670 camera module to become brighter or dimmer accordingly.

Sound-reactive rib cage

This novel showcase of anatomy combines the elegance of the human spine with a core meant to resemble a heart. Michelle was able to build the display by first carving each rib by hand and then stacking them together to form the rib cage. From here, the base was added along with an ESP32 and an INMP441 microphone module. The knobs at the base enable the user to select the mode, set the brightness/speed, change the color, and cycle through various patterns. Best of all, a mode was included that lets the heart "beat" in response to ambient sounds or and/or music.

Drop by ::vtol::

::vtol::'sdrop sculpture not only looks complex from the outside, but also in the way it produces music. At its core is a Geiger counter that measures radiation levels and outputs a tick for every random, radioactive particle that interacts with it. Based on the frequency of these interactions, more droplets are released by the pump, which splash down below into a dish. These waves are picked up by optical sensors and used to both change the current note/sound being played as well as activate the speaker.

DIY self-destructive art inspired by Banksy

Banksy shocked the professional art world when his painting suddenly began to shred itself whilst being auctioned. Inspired by this, Irbidcreated one of his own that hides a series of razor blades at the bottom of the hollow frame. To move the painting downwards, A pair of high-torque DC motors receive power from an H-bridge driver that only turns on whenever the HC-05 Bluetooth module gets the correct command from a phone.

Arduino “having11” Guy
21 year-old IoT and embedded systems enthusiast. Also produce content for Hackster.io and love working on projects and sharing knowledge.
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