LED Art Hack Chat

The engineering of art

Wednesday, July 1, 2020 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Aaron Oppenheimer will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 at noon Pacific Time.

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From the first time humans crawled into a cave with a bit of charcoal to sketch scenes from the world around them, artists have been searching for new media and new ways to express themselves. Natural products ruled for thousands of years, with pigments stolen or crafted from nature as well as wood, ivory, bone, and stone for carving. Time and experience guided our ancestors to new and better formulations and different materials, to the point now where what qualifies as art and what we'd normally think of as technology have, in many cases, blended into one, with the artist often engineering projects of mammoth proportions and breathtaking beauty.

Aaron Oppenheimer co-founded color+light, a company that specializes in large-scale custom art installations for companies like Google, Nike, and Nissan. One of their projects, the "Oddwood Tree", is displayed alongside other gigantic art pieces at Area15 on the Las Vegas strip. His most recent project, fluora, is a digital houseplant, with addressable LEDs in the leaves that can be controlled by a smartphone app or respond to stimuli in the environment. 

Aaron will join us on the Hack Chat to discuss the LED as artistic medium. Join us as we learn what it takes to make enormous art that's strong enough to interact with yet responsive enough to be engaging. 

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Dan Maloney07/01/2020 at 20:06 0 comments

    Aaron Oppenheimer12:52 PM

    @AJ yeah, i guess you could say all of us have done that in the last couple years. You kind of have to be able to work with both types of people in this field. Its really just about keeping it simple and making sure everyone's on the same page. If there's enough money for everyone on the project that def helps. I'd say were relatively happy lol!

    @Anonymous - we're in the middle of a Hack CHhat on LED Art. Perhaps someone can help you when we're done in about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, enjoy the chat!

    James Murphy12:52 PM
    Great being here I gotta Go. Thank you all So much!

    Steve Pomeroy12:52 PM
    @Jake Lampack Very true. I do like how it gives you immediate feedback, though. That's a lot harder with direct coding.

    Anonymous12:53 PM
    k, i mean ive been trying to hack the game for some time now and i almost have it but when i save the javascript code their servers "change" the values

    Anonymous12:53 PM
    would like some assistance whenever anyone can offer XD

    Aaron Oppenheimer12:53 PM
    @AJ if you're trying to do addressable LED stuff, and loop in other fun things, I'd probably start with a Raspberry Pi and the neopixel library

    Aaron Oppenheimer12:53 PM

    Adafruit Learning System

    NeoPixels on Raspberry Pi

    You'll need to install the Adafruit_Blinka library that provides the CircuitPython support in Python. This may also require verifying you are running Python 3. Since each platform is a little different, and Linux changes often, please visit the CircuitPython on Linux guide to get your computer ready!

    Read this on Adafruit Learning System

    AJ12:54 PM
    @Aaron Oppenheimer Thank you!!!

    Aaron Oppenheimer12:54 PM
    adafruit has some great tutorials on this stuff, i would just pick one you like and follow it to a T. then maybe do another 1 or 2, then try your own project

    Steve Pomeroy12:54 PM
    Oh, one questions about large-scale wiring for a custom installation project. Are there languages/formats/etc. for doing wiring diagrams that everyone would understand or is it just a wild west?

    Soma Holiday12:54 PM
    @AJ I can second Adafruit as an amazing resource for beginning with LEDs. I'm a software engineer who didn't know a single thing about electricity when I started, and Adafruit got me over the hump.

    sander12:54 PM
    One of my projects

    AJ12:55 PM
    @Aaron Oppenheimer @Soma Holiday Thanks! Yeah, I think my problem is that I thought I need ed my own projects from the get-go, and that just set me up for failure before I even began.

    Steve Pomeroy12:55 PM
    I'm thinking about all the low-voltage DC wiring, plus power injection wiring, plus power supplies, etc.

    CopperJockey12:55 PM
    Question about floura, any plans to add light bands that are beneficial to plant growth. Not something like a full on grow light but a light that stimulates growth of house plants?

    AJ12:55 PM
    I will definitely check those out!

    sander12:55 PM
    One of my projects, A light Conversation:

    Soma Holiday12:55 PM
    @AJ Adafruit has a lot of tutorials on specific project ideas that can be very inspiring and educational

    AJ12:56 PM
    @sander Neat-o!

    Aaron Oppenheimer12:56 PM
    @sander that looks awesome. love that the phone looks like its hovering. nice mobile app integration too!

    Rafael Lawisch12:56 PM
    When talking about addressing, is there a common spec/protocol? Is it a single network, or multiple networks are used? I can only imagine what would take to control instalations in the 100k+ LEDs, like the tree

    sander12:56 PM
    @AJ thanks :-)

    AJ12:57 PM
    @Soma Holiday Well, now I know what my weekend is gonna look like. Thanks!

    Bailey Steinfadt12:57 PM
    @CopperJockey Light frequencies good for growth of plants depends very much on the plant! And they're still researching it, too. Used to work in a research greenhouse doing automation. Pretty interesting stuff, but a deep well to dive into.

    AJ12:57 PM
    @sander How did you develop the phone app?

    Aaron Oppenheimer12:58 PM
    @CopperJockey we don't have...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney07/01/2020 at 20:04 0 comments

    Aaron Oppenheimer12:00 PM
    Hi everyone!! Aaron from color+light here! Really excited to hang with you all today!

    sander joined the room.12:00 PM

    Boian Mitov12:00 PM
    Hello @Aaron Oppenheimer :-)

    anfractuosity12:00 PM

    bylloyb joined the room.12:00 PM

    Psygantic joined the room.12:00 PM

    Jake Lampack12:01 PM
    Hello! You have Jake from color+light here as well

    bylloyb12:01 PM
    Hello Jake, Hello Aaron

    OK, there we go! Hi Aaron, welcome to the Hack Chat. And welcome everyone. I'm Dan Maloney, I'll be moderating today as we talk about the cool LED art that Aaron has created. And I see we have Jake here too - what about Cate?

    Cate Hall joined the room.12:01 PM

    As if on cue...

    Max Henstell joined the room.12:02 PM

    Cate Hall12:02 PM
    Hiya! I'm here as well.

    Welcome Cate, looks like everyone is here. Perhaps you can all tell us a little about yourselves to start us off?

    Rhys Davies joined the room.12:02 PM

    James Murphy12:03 PM
    Eager to hear this.

    AJ joined the room.12:04 PM

    Aaron Oppenheimer12:04 PM
    Hi everyone! I’m originally from San Diego but have been living in SF for the last 5 years. I’m a huge fan of live music and a musician myself, and enjoy travel, backpacking, and making LED art. I’ve got a degree in mechanical engineering, and spent some time working as a big data consultant before getting into LED art/events with Symmetry Labs. While working there, I was their head of operations and lead project manager, and delivered more than $5m in LED art over 3 years with them, including 3 permanent outdoor installations.

    Late last year, myself, Cate, and Jake left Symmetry to start color+light. In addition to continuing to make large scale LED art, we’ve been working on our first consumer product these last couple months, which is an LED houseplant called fluora.

    jack joined the room.12:05 PM

    Michelle Moreno joined the room.12:06 PM

    Jake Lampack12:06 PM
    Hello! I’m Jake. I’ve been working on LED installations for nearly a decade. I worked at Symmetry Labs for many years, and also have worked on various well-known installations at Burning Man, Coachella, and others. Although, primarily a software engineer, I enjoy getting to be involved in all areas of the creative development and engineering required to make sure the whole puzzle come together. These days, I am helping build color+light with Aaron and Cate, and trying to keep the dream alive of building large scale light installations and also on bringing the magic of those installations in to people’s homes.

    Tim Gremalm12:06 PM
    Yo! I work as a embedded programmer, I love building strange things that lights up. I'm using mostly LED's in my installations.

    leiflight joined the room.12:06 PM

    Louis Beaudoin joined the room.12:06 PM

    vince joined the room.12:07 PM

    Aaron Oppenheimer12:07 PM
    Hey tim! nice to meet ya!

    Cate Hall12:07 PM
    Hi everyone! My route to our company was a bit unconventional. I went to law school and started practicing law in Washington DC about 10 years ago. I did that for about 5 years and decided it wasn’t the right career for me — I just wasn’t enjoying life. So I quit law and became a professional poker player for several years, became one of the top players in the world, then got tired of that as well. I sat down and brainstormed what I wanted to do next, and surprisingly discovered that my answer was LED art, because I felt like many of the most transcendent experiences I’d had involved it, and I wanted to learn how to create art like that. I didn’t have any experience with it and didn’t know how I’d break into it, but — and this 100% true — less than 24 hours later, I got a call from a friend saying an LED art company was looking to hire a general counsel, and asking if I might be interested. So I took that as a sign and went to work at Symmetry, where I met Jake and Aaron. We’ve been working together about a year and a half now.

    Soma Holiday joined the room.12:07 PM

    So who's the typical customer for these large scale pieces?


    Read more »

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Louis Beaudoin wrote 07/01/2020 at 23:09 point

Thanks for doing this Hack Chat, I found it really interesting.  Inspired by the discussion after the official Hack Chat ended, I thought it might be nice to have an ongoing place where people can chat about LED Art.

Here's a project and public chatroom to keep the discussion going, anytime, or Wednesday around 12PM Pacific time (when I'm guessing a lot of us are going to be logged in anyway for the weekly Hack Chat):

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