Charlie was a collaboration with developers at Instrument. It started off as an attempt to decorate the teepee, a six-sided wooden pyramid, which at the time was the symbol of Instrument. The teepee was massive and had been a meeting room in the old warehouse space. But to move it into the new building the top six feet had been cut off making it about the size of a Christmas tree. We wanted to have it decorated before the holiday break as a surprise for the company. So we built a model version of the pyramid and started working in secret on the top floor.
We decided to reuse LED strips from a previous project to do the decorating. No LED should ever be exposed directly to viewers, so opaque plastic covers also needed to be designed to diffuse the light. We needed to know how best the LED strips could be spaced out and divided up to create a symmetrical look. We also needed to know how far from the plastic covers the LEDs needed to be mounted to create a seamless and detailed display. Lots of basic geometry and trigonometry was used to figure all this out.
So, we cut and glued plastic and wired up the LEDs and tried it out. But the LEDs weren't reacting; a hardware problem. Only one plastic ring had been fabricated. We missed our deadline. The holiday break was coming up and we were far from finished.
After the holiday break, we reconvened and decided to submit the project to Byte Me 5.0 hosted by AFRU Gallery. We couldn't move the teepee, so a replica would have to be fabricated to install in the gallery. The project was now called Charlie and it would be a creature that breathed and reacted to the presence of people around it.
The metal shop at ADX was used to create a metal skeleton to hold the LED rings and house the electronics.
The wood shop was used to cut the remaining rings.
Laser cutters were used to cut plastic to make braces for the LED strips.
OpenCV was used to monitor movement on four webcams in a 360 degree circle around the piece.
Charlie "breathed" at a steady rate when no one was around; a cloudy white noise on top of a deep blue would arise and then fade. The presence of people increased the rate of breathing. Red clouds would appear where people moved and float up from the bottom.
This reaction to people created some interesting reactions from people.