SuttonBeresCuller: Pan Optos
SuttonBeresCuller: Pan Optos
SuttonBeresCuller: Pan Optos
SuttonBeresCuller: Pan Optos
SuttonBeresCuller: Pan Optos
SuttonBeresCuller: Pan Optos

SuttonBeresCuller: Pan Optos

October 2010

Large scale robot, camera, artist curated exhibit, wi-fi devices, computer, flat screen, joystick, Arduinos, Internet, Flickr. Concept and Artists: SuttonBeresCuller. Mechanical Engineering: Paul Shemeta. Electronics and Code: Joseph Gray. Electronics, Code and Technical Review: Chuck Harrison. Electronics, Camera and Network: Matt Westervelt. Exhibited as part of Vortexhibition Polyphonica at The Henry Gallery, Seattle 2010-2011. Curated by Sara Krajewski.

arduino electronics flickr API installation network processing

Panoptos is a giant, room-sized, robot that allows the viewing of a gallery exhibition by driving a remote camera around with a joystick while looking at an HD screen. The camera is positioned close to the artwork giving a unique, displaced, experience of an art collection that would be rarely seen otherwise. The joystick control is coupled with a shiny red button that when pressed takes the current image being viewed by the robot and uploads it to it’s own Flickr stream.

SuttonBeresCuller hired me to consult with them on the technical aspects of this project during its earlier development. I designed the majority of the overall electronics system and wrote all of the software that runs the exhibition. Matt Westervelt of Metrix Create Space also worked with the team closely through out the entire process providing technical logistics and ideas. Matt also setup the wireless network and got the camera stream to look pretty. Paul Shemeta, an industrial design veteran at Boeing, drew up the schematics for the mechanics and structure of the robot from the artist’s original concept renderings. Chuck Harrison, a robotics designer and MIT alum, provided support and technical review of the code and electronics.

Technical Overview

The robot motor logic was run on a standard Arduino with a WiFi shield that connected to a remote computer running an Apache server. The robot retrieved motor instructions via HTTP from a plain text file containing motor speeds multiple times a second. The text file was updated by a Processing sketch that listened to a second Arduino attached to a ruggedized joystick (salvaged from a giant crane) that gallery patrons could use.

Moving the joystick changed the numbers in the text file which was then read by the robot and used to set motor speeds for both the x and y axis. The two 24V motors were driven by a Sabertooth 2X25 dual motor driver which received instructions from the WiFi enabled Arduino on board the robot via software serial. The Arduino WiFi Shield library was modified to increase the clock speed enough to make communications capable of parsing real-time control data streams multiple times a second.

An Axis IP camera sat on the y-axis chassis feeding it’s stream via ethernet to an Ubiquity wireless router sitting adjacent to it on the chassis. The stream was then relayed via local area network to the computer attached to the joystick Arduino. The stream was played using VLC on a large HD flatscreen positioned in front of the joystick, thereby creating the round-trip visual feedback of the joystick control.

The final element was a red button beside the joystick that uploaded the current still image from the camera to the Panoptos Flickr stream. This button was connected to the same Arduino as the joystick. The same Processing sketch that handled motor control data from the joystick also created an FTP connection to a remote server host and uploaded the still image capture to a folder there. The software then made an HTTP request to a PHP script on the remote server that uploaded the image to Flickr using their API and added the image to the Panoptos collection.

The Flickr stream produced during the exhibition is here: Panoptos Flickr Stream

Tech