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Tracking the Island Resident with Arduino

Andrea Zittel, American, b. 1965, “Indy Island,” 2010. Commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Courtesy of the Artist and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.

As you may or may not already know, the IMA organizes an artist residency each summer on Andrea Zittel’s Indy Island within 100 Acres.  This year, the park will be inhabited by A. Bitterman and the project is called Indigenous.  As part of the project, Mr. Bitterman wants to provide spectators an opportunity to track the artist.

To accomplish this, we first looked into commercial GPS solutions that would allow us to send realtime GPS data over the web that could then be plotted on a map.  The closest thing we found is the Garmin Communicator API that works with select devices.  Unfortunately this came with limitations on how often data could be polled, so it turned out to be less then a desirable solution.

Enter Arduino.

What is this strange word and what does it have to do with tracking artists?  Arduino is an open source microcontroller for scientists, engineers, programmers, and hobbyists.  Stopping short of my personal opinion that this little device will revolutionize hardware like Linux revolutionized software, I will say it was exactly what we needed.

Most any store that sells an Arduino also sells what are called “shields.” These shields allow you to attach different electronic circuits to the Arduino so that you can program your software to control and utilize them.  For our application, we needed a GPS shield to track our artist and a cellular GSM shield to transmit the data back to us over the cellphone network.

All of the data aquired is plotted on a map using a hex binning algorithm

WARNING: the following contents are about to get very technical and nerdy.  If you aren’t interested in the technical bits and just want to see where the artist is, you can jump straight to the website to “track the artist.”

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Making fake HDR images in Adobe Lightroom

HDR photography has become quite popular recently.  Even the new iPhones will produce stunning HDR images.  If you are unfamiliar with this style of photography, the HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  Traditionally to create these types of images you would be required to take at least 3 identical images at different exposure settings, and those photos would be combined into a single image using special software.  The reason for this is because an HDR is taking the areas from each photo that are perfectly exposed and combining them into one image.  Typically, when you take a photo of a scene not everything in the image is at its optimum exposure.  For example, one area might be in a shadow and another area could be over exposed by the sun, but an object elsewhere in the image is perfectly exposed.

Now lets say we didn’t think to take 3+ images when we were out shooting but we still want a beautiful HDR image of the scene.  That’s were this Lightroom technique for fake HDRs comes in to play.

Lets start with the original image:

As you can see, the image is fairly drab, the colors are not vibrant, and the front of the gas pump is under exposed compared to the rest of the scene.

The image to the left illustrates the Lightroom settings I used to obtain our effect.  The first step is to get everything properly exposed, you can do this by fidgeting with the “Fill Light” and “Recovery” settings in Lightroom.  Add more fill light to brighten up dark areas, and more recovery to restore details to over exposed areas.

Personally, I’m a contrast junkie so I like to bump my clarity all the way up and add contrast to taste. This will create a sharp, crisp image.  And lastly, you will want to bring your vibrance and saturation up.  This will help make those colors bright and vibrant just like you see in many HDR images.

And that’s it, you have your High Dynamic Range image. You can download the lightroom preset I created to make this image right click on this link and choose save as.


Building a better kiosk with GIS and HTML5

A possibly little known fact about IMA Lab is that we also develop applications and websites for other museums. Recently we were approached by the Atlanta History Center to build an interactive war map kiosk for an exhibition entitled “War In Our Backyards.” The Atlanta History Center has gathered an immense amount of data about the civil war battles in the Atlanta area and they wanted to convey this information onto a map so that visitors could see what took place right in their neighborhoods.

Not only did this exhibit involve a series of touch screen kiosks, but also needed to include a large version of the map that would be projected from the ceiling onto a table in the middle of the exhibit. Many ideas had been tossed around for the best way to approach this unique kiosk design. The approach we eventually decided on was to build a single interface that could accommodate both the projection and the touch screen displays. The screen shot below depicts the final interface design.

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Meeting the Natives: a boat trip to the island

If you have been reading the blog of our 100 Acres islanders you probably already know about this: our friendly neighborhood island residents are giving boat tours of Andrea Zittel’s Indianapolis Island from 10:30am – 1 pm everyday.

So yesterday I decided to hop on down to the park and take a boat ride myself.   If you have an opportunity, I highly recommend checking it out.  The island is pretty neat.  Just make sure the flag is up and you bring something to trade.

Here is the generator they built for electricity on the island.  I was told it takes about 2 and a half hours of pedaling to generate about an hours worth of electricity.

Jessica was enjoying some much appreciated sun tan lotion as acquired in a trade.

Jessica making trades with the family that rode the boat in with me:

This weekend’s weather forecast is looking pretty fine. If you visit the islanders, what do you plan to bring along to trade?


What’s in ‘store’

Back in February we launched a new version of the IMA website.  But by now, I’m sure you are already aware of this.  And because a programmer’s work is never done, after the launch it was on to phase 2. That included improving our online store and integrate it into the rest of the site.

With that, we are pleased to announce the new and improved online Shop Section:

With the launch of the online shop, users (that’s you) will now be able to purchase tickets and memberships right along side any books, cards, or jewelry you may decide to buy.  Whether you’re shopping the IMA Store, the Design Center, or the Greenhouse Shop, you’ll immediately receive a 10% membership discount on items when you are purchasing a membership.  If you already have a membership, you will just need to login to take advantage of the discount.

The shop also received a dramatic visual overhaul, bringing featured products and categories to the front.  And all based on the 960 grid system as previously discussed by Matt. Happy shopping!


About karnold

Job Title: Web Developer

Interests: Music, photography, camping, horticulture

Favorite Movies: Pi, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Spinal Tap, Easyrider

Favorite Music: Way to long to list, anything from Hank Williams, to Wu Tang Clan, to Neurosis. I'm pretty diverse.

Pets: My bi-polar kitty named Zero.

Something you should know about me: I collect animal bones and make my own fictional creatures out of them.

Kris has written 11 articles for us.