Our Dec 8 meetup: Lee Cherry & Circuit Studio of NCSU — Hands on with Arduino and Pixy / by Benjamin Watson

It's finals week, and things are intense. You need to refresh with something visceral. Circuit Studio and Lee Cherry are here to help!

Heads up! This event will not take place at our usual Hunt Library, but rather at Circuit Studio on main campus, on the first floor of Ricks Hall Addition, the two-story building in between the 1911 Building and Ricks Hall (and a stone's throw from Hillsborough St.).

Circuit Studio is new facility created by the university's College of Arts and Social Sciences, supporting projects in digital media, digital humanities, physical computing, and mobiles. It's equipped with all things Arduino, a Makerbot, Kinect and a Brainwave headset. Jameson Hogan, a doctoral student at the studio, will be showing us the ropes. He'll introduce us to Arduino, and likely also help us break down some old tech!

Lee Cherry is a Research Associate at the College of Design, and one of the most successful on campus at bridging technology and design. He has over 10 years of experience developing interactive experiences with a broad range of companies and organizations. He'll be introducing us to his Pixy camera.

Even more than usual, this is not a "sit back and listen" meeting, but a chance for us to bring together a cross disciplinary group of people to stick our hands in some silicon, muck around, and get to know one another.

If you're coming, please RSVP!



We wasted no time and dove right into the Pixy CMUcam5 and what it was all about. The Pixy camera is a small, easy-to-use, inexpensive vision system that learns to detect objects that you teach it. Lee went over the powerful capabilities of the Pixy camera, by teaching it to recognize different colored markers and follow its gaze on the marker it was supposed to detect. This brings to the table a new way of vision detection, teaching the camera relevant objects in a sea of other stimuli, and simplifying the process by eliminating extraneous objects. 

Testing its color and object recognition capabilities with sticky notes, Lee talked about how he and his students had discovered certain limitations of the Pixy camera. For instance, when testing its ability to recognize different sized sticky notes on a white ceiling four feet away, the Pixy camera had no problem detecting the full and half sticky notes, but could not detect the quarter sticky notes. Lee and his students also had issues connecting Pixy directly to Unity. A more in-depth discussion of these limitations are found in the College of Design's Advanced Media Lab's research blog: Pixy Stuck. 

As Lee explained to us the marvels and pitfalls of the Pixy camera, Jameson Hogan was busy setting up an analog synthesizer kit by littlebits. Hogan explained to us how littleBits and KORG had partnered up to make a modular synthesizer, for novices and experts to create music in seconds. Hogan set up a space where he joined together small circuit modules, each responsible for its own effect like echo, or flanger, connected to a tiny speaker that produced the sound. There were small buttons on the keyboard module where one could spend hours pressing away, creating interesting 8-bit music. For ones who wish to get serious with it, the littleBits kit can also be plugged into a computer to incorporate programming with Arduino.