Motion Capture

The development of the system to capture the motion of the speakers as they presented their research was done in collaboration with the Met Office Informatics Lab. The Informatics Lab is a diverse group of programmers, data scientists, and scientists who work on protoyping projects at the Met Office to explore new ways of communicating climate science to the wider public. 
In the initial meetings, I described what I wanted in terms of motion capture; to be able to record the non verbal communication of the delegates at the conference.  We discussed several ways that this could be approached, including the kind of sensor devices found on a Microsoft X Box which would allow some sort of three dimensional tracking of movement. However in the end we decided on a simpler system which we felt would be more robust using a conventional web cam and tracking colour change (in RGB values) across a grid of squares, where each square would represent a pot being struck if there was enough change in the values. This would be done in a browser system which would allow a variability in inputs in terms of the number of squares in the grid, the sampling rate, and the amount of colour change needed to create a request. 

In addition there would need to be another computer in the artwork which would operate the robotic beaters, using servos. This we decided would need to be a Raspberry Pi, which would have enough adaptability and processing power to achieve the tasks asked of it.

It was decided that, because the artwork would be in a different part of the building to the conference, that the browser and the computer would communicate via the internet, as wired connections would be too cumbersome. 

All this would be done in a combination of Javascript and Python (for the browser and the Pi respectively) and the 2 computers would be linked through a cloud server based connection called NGROK.

Meeting with the Informatics Lab team and witnessing their problem solving approach was a positive new experience. They were able to translate my non technical approach into a workable system that they could demonstrate to me in just over a week. I would explain what I wanted and the team (all seated around a large table in their office), some of whom I could not see behind screens, were mostly quiet with one or 2, Jacob or Niall asking questions about what I wanted. However whilst, I was trying figure out what was going on, they were all comunicating with each other on Slack, sending bits of code and suggestions as to approaches so quickly I was having trouble keeping up with the flow of ideas. I remember coming out of meetings feeling like I thought I know what had just happenend, but couldn’t quite be sure. Thinking that this would take several weeks to sort out, I went back to the other tasks and was completely suprised when they got back to say they had sorted it in a week and wanted to show me what they had managed. I had barely started on anything else, and they had seemingly sorted out what I felt was the most complex element of the whole process!

However the robot side of the equation was something they felt would be better served by others so I turned to the newly formed Fab Lab in Exeter Library to see if I could get help there.

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