We have the tools. We have the techniques. Now, what happens when you put technology for tracking physical objects into the hands of artists around the world?

On June 6, members of the CDM community joined in our first “global hackday,” assembling tangible interfaces on tracking tables. Martin Kaltenbrunner of reacTIVision and the reacTable joined us from Vienna, Austria, while Adam Kumpf of the OpenFrameworks-powered Trackmate and MIT Tangible Media Group chatted from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Much of the day was about saying “hello, world,” and helping each other through getting cameras working, troubleshooting, and the like. But there was an extraordinary variety of ideas even in one day. I can only imagine where things might go from here. I can also see the tools people were developing as being expressive for live visuals and visual performance – and via a really cheap interface, too.

Some of the accomplishments of our first day:

  • Endless ideas: Drawing interfaces using objects, a floor tom as a housing, a musical instrument with soda bottles as the interface, a game with blocks featuring the Tokyo skyline, and others.
  • Troubleshooting data: Both the Trackmate and reacTIVision projects got lots of feedback about how people were using the tools, where tracking was and wasn’t working, and where people got stuck up. We also compiled lots of information on cameras, drivers, builds, and operating systems. I’m working with Adam and Martin to dig through a lot of this information so we can compile a really practical guide to make it easier for people to create their own projects.
  • Special guests: Marco had his augmented magic show and we had the beginnings of an interactive glove. Check out the video highlights to see what the NYC event was like.
  • noisepages for networking, and other tools: Livestream video was a bit of a mixed bag; I’m still looking for easier ways of doing that (both on the video shooting side and the streaming side.) Text chat was an easy win, though IRC can still be cumbersome; I’m looking into integrating standardized XMPP chat instead, and providing access via any client or a webpage. But the other big success story was that noisepages worked nicely for documentation; see the fritzcrate and i3games sites for great examples!

Building Communities Around the World

A real highlight to me was getting to hear from Valeria (jalea.tv) and Jose (Estado Lateral Media Lab), visiting New York from Argentina. They talked about what the scene is like in Buenos Aires, and touched on issues of community, learning, open source, and the multilingual world of coding. And they do some really beautiful and hip visual work, both commercial and experimental. We also wound up with a significant amount of the online chat being in Spanish. That to me is a healthy sign – “global” really doesn’t necessarily translate to “English.”

Hackday Results, and the Future

For more documentation, head to our noisepages site:

Tangible Interface Hackday: The Projects (So Far)


And, yes, this is only the beginning. My suspicion is that a single weekend would be enough to get workable tracking projects going – especially as we iron out some technical wrinkles. But we’d certainly love to do more of this, whether it’s another “official” hackday or simple an open lab with chat and sharing.

To continue this moving forward, you can join the Tangible / Multi-touch Interfaces group on noisepages.com:
Tangible + Multi-Touch noisepages Group

And I’d like to brainstorm how we might proceed, whether it’s a formal event or a sort of online open lab. You can join that conversation on the group:
Let’s make every day a Global Hackday – the event continues

noisepages is still in alpha state, but we’re working aggressively to move forward to beta, and content placed there is safe and future-proof. (Most importantly, I’ve fixed the jpeg library on the server so that avatars work!)

We look forward to hearing from you.