Work In Progress Level Editor

We’ve been working away at the software component for our upcoming project, Galaxy Heist, which we’re making in conjunction with Site 3 coLaboratory as part of our Artist Residency. As we’re developing it, we’re using using Max 6 and an Arduino to run our project because we’re most familiar with these interfaces, which allows us to test and develop more quickly. We may change this setup for the final manifestation of the project, but we’re making some serious progress!

The good news: We have a system that we can write our laser patterns on like we would a MIDI song, using Max 6 and an Arduino. This is made possible with Hochschule für Musik Basel’s wonderful external MSP object note~. We can also save levels as text files and simply load in a folder of our levels in development. This is going to be awesome for play testing (which, yes, we will need play testers ;) ) because we can quickly and easily change the pattern of the fence to test and tweak for ideal play systems. Additionally, we can adjust the tempo for different difficulty levels. For more information, see here.

One issue is that most of the documentation for getting the Arduino to Max 6 is centered around the Arduino Uno. With the amount of digital pins we need to run our project, we had to go with the Arduino Mega 2560, which has 52 digital pins that can be input or output, and 16 analog inputs. We only need the digital because we’re changing our photocells (which are analog inputs) into digital on a hardware level. The good news is that we’ve pretty much figured out how to use the Arduino Mega 2560 with Max by modifying Lasse Vestergaard’s ArduinoMax-InOut-forDummies (which can be found with other Max Arduino methods here). We still have to sort out a couple minor bugs, but it works!

Once our patches are finessed / finished (it may take a while), we’ll be releasing little bits of code so that hopefully it can help others!

Next, we’re going to put our theory into practice – head back to the shop and hook up our lasers to the Arduino. Then we gotta solve the problem of mounting these things and thinking of a robust wiring architecture.

Stay Tuned!

Galaxy Heist WIP Max Patch 01

Screenshot of our work in progress Max patch that will run Galaxy Heist. This patch allows us to write the laser fence patterns with a MIDI Piano roll interface, parse the data, and send it to the digital outs of the Arduino (which is used to control our lasers).

Laser Switch Prototype


This a video of our working laser switch prototype for our upcoming project, Galaxy Heist, which we’re making as part of our Site 3 coLaboratory Artist Residency. Our fences are essentially going to consist of a bunch of these lasers that can turn on and off. It can/will be more refined, but it works! In this demo video we have it hooked up to an Arduino Uno and Max 6 to just play a video to show that the switch is doing something. The switch consists of a dollar store laser diode and a photocell (see diagram below).


Laser Switch Diagram

Diagram of our how laser switches work

We’re hoping to be able to write all of the laser patterns in Midi, meaning writing “code” for the levels (i.e., laser patterns that the player has to dodge) will be super easy, and potentially tweakable in real-time if need be. Additionally, we can adjust the tempo of the laser patterns for different difficulty levels. We’ll keep updating our progress!

Our next step: Get multiple firing in patterns! We could do this straight in Arduino, but our goal is to have it output as a result of a Midi file.

Update & Site 3 Artists in Residence

We got hit by some illness and stuff, so we had a bit of downtime since our last update. The wicked news is that we were selected as Site 3 coLaboratory’s Artists in Residence! What is Site 3? Site 3 is a Toronto-based maker space that consists of awesomely creative people… many with engineering, electronic, and/or pyro-based creative projects (just to name a few). Check ‘em out at

So what are we doing for them? Well, we’ve been preparing to combine our love for media and installation, with our love for gaming and 80′s B movie Sci-Fi, to create a live-action gaming environment entitled, Galaxy Heist. We figure a lot of developers (and one of our past projects) are focusing on making your body a controller for virtual realms (which is fun and awesome!..but…), so why don’t we just turn the entire bloody environment into a controller?

Galaxy Heist is an interactive experience with an 80’s sci-fi futuristic aesthetic. The project emulates a classic laser-avoidance “diamond heist” scenario by allowing the player to step into the role of the cosmic burglar. With a limited amount of time, the player must pass through a complicated series of changing and alternating laser patterns without tripping any of the lasers in order to retrieve the object to win the game. If the player trips a laser, it is game over, and the player can either play again or the next player enters the game. The physical setup involves a series of low powered lasers set up in “fences,” each with a distinct and changing firing pattern. The player must pass by each fence in order to retrieve the object back through the fences to complete the game. A medium fog/haze fills the room to create an aesthetic and to make the lasers visible in the air.

This is quite unlike anything we’ve done before, so we’re going to be blogging our progress as it develops. In the mean time, start training, cadets!

Diagram of Galaxy Heist

Diagram of Galaxy Heist, developed in conjunction with Site 3 CoLaboratory.

Diagram of Galaxy Heist

Diagram of Galaxy Heist

Experimental Media 2013: Cyber In Securities

Cyber In Securities

September 23, 2013, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Corcoran Gallery of Art 500 17th Street NW, Washington, DC, USA.

Washington Project for the Arts presents Experimental Media 2013: Cyber In Securities. This exhibit will explore security, privacy, and surveillance in the digital age, through a gallery exhibition, video screenings series, and panel discussion. Our video-music piece Drone will be be screened at the Corcoran Gallery of Art on September 23, 2013.

If you’re in the Washington area hope to see you there!

Taming Lumens

Taming Lumens
9:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.
1409A Bloor Street West, Toronto
PWYC ($5 Suggested)

This story begins with Kyle’s interactive light-sound installation, Trace, being selected to be a part of this year’s art portion of NXNE. It was fun: we filled Hashtag Gallery with fog and everyone got a chance to create and control conical light sculptures out of solid beams of light. Unfortunately, in the haziness of the environment someone snagged Kyle’s borrowed DSLR camera (with its lenses) when he put it down to give a demonstration of the piece. We lost all of the documentation of the event, so the fine folks at the new space uptrack/downtrack and some friends figured instead of wallowing in the loss, we’ll just create an evening of new memories instead.

The event will feature Kyle’s piece Trace, our collaborative piece Hive, as well as reactive projections by Josse Masters-Leniveau. We also have some musical performances by Ostrich Tuning Guitar Orchestra and Radio Lucifer.

Taming Lumens Poster

Documentation of Hive

Hive is a multichannel speaker sculpture combining found and fabricated parts to create a pulsating spatial sound composition. Exploring convergences between technology and nature, Hive employs regurgitative paper wasp architectures with technological parts and scraps to create an empty sculptural entity that replaces insects with sound, creating the experience of an organismic instrument-speaker hybrid.

The piece is comprised of 7 channels  distributed over 50 speakers. Each channel plays a unique audio rhythm which converge into a throbbing drone when perceived from a distance.

This piece was  on exhibition for The Noise Project Exhibition at 99 Sudbury, Toronto, Canada on July 26 -27, 2013.

Super Thanks to the following for making this project possible:

Laura Mendes and John Loerchner, 99 Sudbury, Dan Hines & Active Surplus, Barbara Hopkins, Steve Hopkins,  John Scarpino, Dan Scarpino, John Duffield and Urbane Cyclist, Long & McQuade and all the other amazing artists whom we exhibited with.

Hive Process Pictures

Hive is being presented at The Noise Project Exhibition this Friday, so here’s some documentation of our speaker wiring process, with a more detailed and explanatory post to come after the show about what we’ve learned about speakers and their functionality, as well as some shots of our sculpture’s construction. Neither of us came into this project with much experience working with speakers, or even particular knowledge of how to make it all work, so it’s all been a fun learning process that we’d like to share.

Testing Speakers for Hive Project

First, we tested a bunch of different speakers both found and purchased to figure out the type of sound/aesthetic we’d like to apply to the hive structure. At this point we were faced with decisions like which frequency ranges are most important for representing our concept and carrying our imagined sound, which comes down to deciding which kinds and how many of each kind of drivers will be used (tweeters vs. mids vs. woofers).

Box of speakers for Hive project

Since our goal is to produce a multi-channel soundscape for participants to explore, rather than a more traditional sound, we decided to stick to uniformity and employ a huge pile of cheap loudspeakers, most often used in car radios. Then we’re adding a couple of woofers to the top and bottom to give it some balls. As seen above, we got ourselves 52 loudspeakers to make up the body of the hive, and were donated a couple of woofers. Overall, Hive is looking to have 50 speakers in total – 48 plus the two woofers.

Series-parallel speaker test for Hive project

We’re wiring the loudspeakers as six channels of eight speakers, with each channel consisting of two sets of four 8 Ohm speakers. Each of those two sets will be wired in series to raise the impedance to 32 Ohms, then the two sets of four wired in parallel to bring the impedance down to 16 Ohms. The two woofers will be wired separately on a seventh audio channel. Above is a picture of one of our series-parallel speaker tests with eight loudspeakers.

audio channel wiring diagram

Sculpturally, the speaker drivers are being wired together through a chicken mesh structure stitched overtop of a bike rim skeleton. The structure will be approximately two feet in diameter and about four feet tall. But we’ll share that part of the process after the show!

Diagram of Hive Project

Opening Reception: Friday July 26th, 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Viewing: Saturday July 27th, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.
99 Sudbury
99 Sudbury Street, Toronto


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