Art from code - Generator.x
Generator.x is a conference and exhibition examining the current role of software and generative strategies in art and design. [Read more...]
Tag: interface

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It’s rare that something gets blogged on Generator.x simply because of its wow factor. There are plenty of design blogs out there to take care of that end of things. Even more rarely are “cool web sites” reported here It’s quite rare these days to see anything that’s really all that surprising in any case.

Despite all this, something just clicked when the Flash-based portfolio site of Japanese art director Kashiwa Sato came up while blogsurfing. Simultaneously minimal and gorgeously over-the-top, it has to be one of the sexiest interfaces out in a long time. The elements used might be nothing new, but the combination is unusually potent.

The front page of the site displays a large grid of projects, each listed with a title and short description. But what steals your gaze is the animated color bars over each project, combining to turn the page into a constantly moving RGB space. Each color bar contains a selection of colors from the project in question, brilliantly giving a unique visual identification. The resulting look is not just gorgeous and visually complex, it also instantly communicates a sense of Sato’s design aesthetics.

[Via Yukio Andoh]


Some new calls for projects in the Nordic region, the first being the brain child of several people involved in the Generator.x conference in Oslo. Please note that these calls are also for international artists.

Call for artworks – INTERFACE and SOCIETY exhibition, Oslo.
Organized by Atelier Nord, to take place at Henie-Onstad Art Center. Curators: Atle Barcley, Erich Berger, Jana Winderen.

In our everyday life we constantly have to cope more or less successfully with interfaces. We use the mobile phone, the mp3 player, and our laptop, in order to gain access to the digital part of our life. In recent years this situation has lead to the creation of new interdisciplinary subjects like “Interaction Design” or “Physical Computing”.
The project INTERFACE and SOCIETY investigates how artists deal with the transformation of our everyday life through technical interfaces. With the rapid technological development a thoroughly critique of the
interface towards society is necessary.

The role of the artist is thereby crucial. S/he has the freedom to deal with technologies and interfaces beyond functionality and usability. The project INTERFACE and SOCIETY is looking at this development with a special focus on the artistic contribution.
Deadline: 1 July 2006
URL: Atelier Nord: Interface & Society

Call for entries. Electrohype 2006, the fourth Nordic biennial for computer based art.
Organized by Electrohype, to take place in Lunds Konsthall, Lund, Sweden.

Electrohype has since the start in 1999 focused on what we choose to call computer based art. Art that runs of computers and utilizes the capacity of the computer to mix various media, allow interaction with the audience, or machines interacting with each others etc. in other words art that can not be transferred to “traditional” linear media. This might seem as a narrow approach but we have discovered that it gives us a better focus on a genre that in no way is narrow.

We are not looking for “straight” video art (even if it is edited on a computer) or still images rendered on computers and other material that refers to more “traditional” media forms. Forms were the traditional tools have been replaced with computers and software.
Deadline: 3 July 2006
URL: Electrohype 2006 call

The Electrohype call is exciting, since they had long ago announced the likely death of the Electrohype organization and thus also the biennial. With Electrohype resurrected, there are currently three major exhibitions of media art underways in Norway and Sweden (the third being Article). With Pixelache in Finland and various projects in Denmark completing the picture, that means the Nordic scene is still going strong.

LEGO: Mindstorms NXT

LEGO: Mindstorms NXT product range

Following up on recent LEGO posts, Simen at Bengler pointed this out:

LEGO just released information about their Mindstorms NXT product line. To launch in August this year, it introduces USB and Bluetooth connectivity, a smarter Mindstorms NXT Brick and new servos and sensors to play with. There’s an ultrasound sensor for detecting barriers, a sound sensor for responding to sound commands (it even has tone recognition), as well as improved touch and light sensors. This makes a good starting point for simple physical computing.

All in all Mindstorms NXT looks like an exciting package. If the 3D rendered press images are anything to go with, this is definitely a futuristically styled update to a LEGO range popular with the over-20 demographic. There’s a "Call for NXT Great Developers" if you’re feeling lucky.

LEGO also announced that it’s sponsoring a new blog: Written by LEGO veteran Jeff James, nxtbot promises to “provide coverage of the entire spectrum of consumer and personal robotics”. Note that while nxtbot handily references the NXT name, it’s not wrapped in LEGO graphics and explicitly states that it won’t just cover LEGO products. That could mean one of two things:

  1. It’s a genuine independent blog.
  2. It’s a LEGO blog planted to leak viral marketing.

You be the judge, we’re just paranoid.

Wired News has a feature on the development of Mindstorms NXT: Geeks in Toyland. Favorite soundbite: “”Imagine Flickr for robotics.” That’s from Mindstorms Director Søren Lund.


Holidays are in effect, so like most of the blogsphere Generator.x is quieter than usual. To compensate, here is a non-denominational, animal-related bonus project:

Intelligent MIDI Sequencing with Hamster Control was created by Cornell University student Levy Lorenzo for his Master of Engineering (Electrical). It uses 6 hamsters as an input device to an “intelligent” MIDI sequencer, presumably mapping parameters to sensors triggered by the hamsters moving around in a cage-like box.

From Lorenzo’s abstract:

This project was initially fueled by the desire to explore the MIDI protocol. It was decided that this would be accomplished by building a MIDI device. I also aimed to make something novel that had never been done before. But to balance out the unusual nature of its design, I wanted to also to create something that was very musical.After much consideration of different technical design aspects and contemplating various musical ideas, I was able to arrive at a project that would fulfill all of my musical and engineering goals.An intelligent MIDI sequencer was designed with hamster control.

The resulting music sounds generic, but not very hamster-like. On first listen, it is reminiscent of Brian Eno’s experiements with the algorithmic composition tool Koan from SSEYO. For a more complete description of the process, Lorenzo has provided a full report in PDF on the project page.


I know glitchy sounds and visuals are appreciated round these parts, so I couldn’t miss out on posting about Karl Klomp and partner-in-crime Tom Verbruggen. These hyperactive boys indulge in video bending, max/msp hacking, hardware repurposing and general sweet mayhem.

A student at the Frank Mohr Institute in Groningen, Karl Klomp (aka MNK) documents his hardware hacks and visual glitch on Make sure to see the videos of his live performances, he combines drawn animation with video bending noise. Tom Verbruggen (aka Toktek) is part of the Sonido Gris band / art collective, and also does performance art, installation etc. I certainly hope they drop by Berlin sometime.


Seth Hunter has posted a short tutorial on how to integrate Processing and Supercollider, using Open Sound Control to send messages back and forth. This means that even if you can’t afford a Lemur controller, you can at least build yourself a spiffy experimental interface in Processing. Seth’s tutorial uses oscP5, an OSC library by Andreas Schlegel.

Caveat: Supercollider is free, but is primarily for MacOS. There is a Windows port of Supercollider, but I’m not sure how stable this is. See also: SourceForge page for Supercollider.

InstantSOUP: SoundToy & RGB Mixer

InstantSOUP: SoundToy & RGB Mixer

According to the project web site, InstantSOUP is “an electronics cookbook … introducing electronic prototyping in a playful, non-technical way.” Initiated by the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea and led by Yaniv Steiner, InstantSOUP is a playpen for working with physical interfaces. Using Processing and the Wiring interface board (which was started at Ivrea), readers learn to build simple interfaces and repurpose existing electronics.

InstantSOUP is still in beta, but there are already 5 recipes worth getting busy with. The recipes are written in non-threatening plain language, with photos and diagrams laying out the step-by-step progress. Sample projects include rewiring a USB keyboard controller to make a SoundPad, a simple 4-button input device. No Wiring board is required for this one so you can get it up and running without extra hardware (the recipe uses Flash, though). TinkerToy is a classic hack, in which a RF controlled toy car is hijacked using Wiring.

Golan Levin: Scrapple

Golan Levin: Scrapple

Thomas Petersen from has written an interesting review of projects at this year’s Ars Electronica that can be said to be artistic interfaces. By this term he means “hybrids between artworks and artistic instruments, which explore the relations between sound and vision in physical and virtual space”. It’s a good read, check it out.

One of the examples Thomas brings up is Golan Levin’s piece Scrapple: A physical active score table. Scrapple is a product of several years of experimentation that Golan has done on active scores, i.e. a score that is used to produce music but which is created and performed live. His AVES project (on which the Scribble piece is performed) has so far been the culmination of this work, but I have to admit I think Scrapple works almost better on a musical level. Golan’s work is always playful, but Scrapple is his funkiest sound so far and it’s an instant audience hit…


Ixi software is a collective of artists that have created numerous small software projects for interactive music composition using novel graphical interfaces built on visual programming platforms such as Python, Processing/Java, Director and Flash. Both the sound generation (in Pure Data and Supercollider) and graphical interfaces employ algorithmic and generative strategies. Their agenda is to create non-musical interfaces, that is, interfaces which do not reference traditional musical cultural heritage. They state:

Our belief is that controlling musical structures graphically in screen-based instruments such as the ixi software, can be helpful and inspiring for the musician. We try to build “non-musical” interfaces, i.e. controllers that do not contain musical concepts from any tradition or culture. This can be liberating and open up for new directions. Visualising musical patterns is one of the main ideas here, but in a way that is open and not predefining the music. Intelligent interfaces is also one of our aims and we’d like to see instruments that understand and interact with the musician.

Commercial portfolio sites for design companies are a well-established category by now. The sites get slicker, better scripted, converted to proper CSS etc, but essentially it’s the same content in the same wrapping. Only rarely does a real surprise come along.

Advertising companies in particular tend not to take web design very seriously. You see, the awards available for new media advertising are much less prestigious than their film and print counterparts. A delightful exception, then, is the little wonder that is Leo Burnett Canada.

Under the title “Big Ideas come out of Big Pencils” it presents a playful interface, implemented completely in Flash. The user moves a big black pencil around the page, scribbling as it goes. Through interaction and exploration a multitude of details come to light, like the little apples strewn across the page. Clicking on an apple brings up “Leo quotes” with nicely animated typography. An excellent sense of space is created through the use of extreme zooms in and out, resulting in a feeling that is simple, typographic and minimalist, yet simultaneously fun and compelling. Users will most certainly staying longer on this page than they would on your average agency web site.

And that’s more praise than I’ve given any advertising agency in a long time.