The Artificial Artist
The Artificial Artist is the brainchild of Matthew
Brand, former professor at the MIT
Media Lab. It is a piece of software that creates Calderesque mobiles
from images of animals and faces. The idea was to create a full workstation
to be installed at museums where visitors could scan in a picture of their
pet or their face, interactively create a mobile with the computer, and
then have the mobile laser-cut out of steel. The visitor would then be
able to take his/her creation home.
I worked on the project for two years.
The software initially made line-drawings of the mobiles. I wrote a module
in Open Inventor
that took descriptions of the mobile geometry as input and rendered it
in 3D on an SGI workstation. The user could watch as the mobile grew into
it's final form.
I then wrote a simulation of the mobile's motion. The user could use the
mouse to blow wind at the paddles of the mobile, and it would twist and
turn in response. There is no closed form solution to the motion of a mobile,
so it was very difficult to approximate it's motion.
I took my simulation of a mobile's motion and encapsulated it into a self-contained
Inventor file using Inventor engines. This way, an interested person could
download a self-animating model of the creations of the Artificial Artist.
These can be seen on the official web site above.
I designed and implemented a system to physically create the mobiles. After
researching several possibilities, I decided on CNC laser cutting. I taught
myself CNC milling techniques, and wrote code to translate a mobile into
a series of codes that control a laser cutting machine. I sent these out
to a company and created a prototype. The results balanced correctly and
were visually attractive.
I created another interactive demo of the Artificial Artist using a fish
sensor developed by the Physics
and Media group of the MIT Media Lab. The user could wave his/her hands
in front of a computer monitor, and the mobile twisted and turned in response.
I created a short 3D graphics movie of the project. It features a carousel
with mobiles of circus animals. Contact
me if you wish to view a VHS version.
The Artificial Artist project was selected to exhibit
at the ACM 50th Anniversary Conference
and Exhibition in San Jose, California. Matt and I were flown out to
California, where we installed and manned our exhibit. My interactive mobile
simulations and short movie were run continuously, and thousands of visitors
played with my demos.