Working Together: Hacking, Open Source Libraries, and On-Site Collaboration for Hand Drawn

The Kinect is interesting not just because of what it does, but because of the ways it has been shared. As soon as it was released, hackers competed to create, document, and share code for decoding the information from the camera, and projects such as  Open Kinect have since served as a repository for people to build upon and share code and applications.

Communities of sharing and open source development are one of the ways collective storytelling can occur, and was essential both to the concept and execution of Hand Drawn.

Building on Open Source Software and Libraries
Hand Drawn was written in Processing, an open source programming language that I’ve been using for several years now, and which supports a huge community for support and documentation.

In particular, the software depends heavily on two freely available libraries.

The interface to the Kinect uses Daniel Shiffman’s Kinect for Processing library, which itself builds upon the Open Kinect Project. (I studied with Daniel at ITP, and generally look to his work as a first port of call for new and smart ways to use Processing.)

The other half of the equation was converting gestures captured from the Kinect into 3D images and 3D-printable files. For this, we used toxiclibs, an extensive set of libraries for 3D image creation and manipulation, created and maintained by Karsten Schmidt, who has been a creative consultant across several of MB’s past interactive projects.

By connecting these two pieces of work, we were able to use the Kinect as a tool that captures, interprets, and saves gestures — you can download the core of the code here.

From Thoughts to Thing
Finally, for a complete process—moving from gesture through screen to physical object–we needed help for the final step.

Shortly before the Brighton Mini Maker Faire, were contacted by Hannah and Malcolm Napier of RepNap about combining our code with their 3D printer, so that we could both generate and print objects at the event. This was essential to the success of the day, as it moved the project from a screen-based proof-of-concept to a process for creating something you can hold in your hand. The Napiers were kept busy all day and were only able to print a handful of letters, but they had a noticeable impact. A few were given to their gestural creators, we kept a few for keepsakes, and a few… walked off on their own.

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