Art Of Digital   Digital Velcro
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Art Of Digital Digital Velcro



Slides from my talk at the recent Art of Digital Learning Lab 3 at The Storey in Lancaster

Slides from my talk at the recent Art of Digital Learning Lab 3 at The Storey in Lancaster



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  • First off, a brief bio so you know a bit about who I am, and how I got here. After graduating I moved down to Cambridge to join a small startup called STNC. You won’t have heard of it, but we were doing interesting things with mobile phones and the web before most people had a mobile phone. We built the first ever web browser to run on a mobile phone. We were then bought by Microsoft when they started getting serious about phones, and after a few years working for the “Evil Empire” I left to start my own company. Since then I’ve been using my experience in writing software for very constrained platforms and knowledge of web technologies to work on projects that cut across web and mobile. More and more, I’ve been interested in, and helping people with, the emerging “Internet of Things” – getting data out of the real world and into the Internet; or out of the Internet and into the real world
  • What do I mean by “Digital Velcro”? A lot of these new technologies and digital tools are like velcro: I don’t mean that it’s “sticky”, like websites are supposed to be It’s about the hooks... lots of little hooks... hooks everywhere to make a connection with other people And it’s not polished and perfect, it attracts fluff and doesn’t always quite match up but it’s very good at joining things together
  • Everyone is familiar (I hope) with Moore’s Law, which says that computing power doubles roughly every 18 months. So every two years you get twice as much computing power for your money. The focus is always at the top end of that scale – how much more power you get for your money. But if you look at the other end, you realise that you can get what was state of the art at the start of the Web for pennies now. And once it gets to that sort of price then you can start adding “computing” to a project in the same way that you’d think about whether to build it in MDF or real wood. (And as an aside, the picture shows some electronics running through actual material – the Lilypad wearable Arduino board)
  • The Arduino boards are at the vanguard of this experimentation and movement into physical computing and the “Internet of Things”. It’s an open-source hardware and software project to provide an easy way into connecting motors, lights, switches, all sorts of things in the real world to the digital one.
  • Now this is where I run the risk of talking complete rubbish, and exposing my lack of understanding. As this is a conference for arts organisations and arts professionals, I’m going to try to show how these new digital tools can be used help and improve what you do. However, I’m a geek and technologist, not an arts professional, so although I have experience of theatre, galleries and museums as a visitor, I might completely misunderstand what would be useful for you. Anyway…
  • Embedding digital technology into your performances can make the experience more fantastic and alive. This is a photo from an event put on my The Kazimier, who are an artist collective based in Liverpool. The organ you can see in the background has glass organ pipes that light up when the respective note is played. It’s all done with a combination of MIDI keyboard, laptop, Arduino and some LEDs, but all that the participants see is this wonderful musical instrument that lights up. And they’re using similar techniques for their new show, where a motion sensor can tell when someone is leaning in towards a crystal ball and triggers some dry ice to be squirted into the ball and illuminates it with white LEDs that get brighter as the person gets closer.
  • I have a little script that takes the data from and works out when a boat has entered, or left the Mersey. Whenever that happens it sends a message to the @merseyshipping twitter account. That means I get a background awareness of the comings and goings on the river, and find out just how busy the river still is!
  • Bubblino – a twitter-watching, bubble-blowing Arduino bot.
  • Showed’s mocked-up RFID and iPhone museum exhibition from whilst I talked about how RFID tags or QR codes on each exhibit could let people continue their gallery/museum visit after leaving the building. When you got home you could find out more about what you’d seen from the comfort of a big screen and a proper keyboard and mouse, and maybe easily blog your visit, which would help promote the galleries. And the gallery would be able to find out which were the more popular of their exhibits – like a web analytics for the physical space.
  • Finally, another apology for anyone who was expecting to be taking part in an RFID scavenger hunt followed by hardware hacking and a Twitter-fuelled toy car race. Twacky Races didn’t quite come together in time for this event, but will be coming to the next Learning Lab.

Art Of Digital Digital Velcro Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Digital Velcro Adrian McEwen -
  • 2. You can interact with my talk. Twitter about it and include #artofdigital or #bubblino in your tweet Adrian McEwen -
  • 3. Who Am I?
    • I was a key member of STNC Ltd.
    • Mobile startup from Cambridge
    • Bought by Microsoft in 1999
    • Left Microsoft in 2002 and…
    • Founded MCQN Ltd.
    • A web, mobile and “Internet of Things” agency
    Adrian McEwen -
  • 4. Digital Velcro? Adrian McEwen - Photo credit:
  • 5. Digital as Material Adrian McEwen - Photo credit:
  • 6. Arduino Adrian McEwen -
  • 7. But Why “add computing” To Your Project Adrian McEwen -
  • 8. Immersive – The Kazimier Adrian McEwen -
  • 9. Interactive - @MerseyShipping Adrian McEwen -
  • 10. Interactive – Bubblino Adrian McEwen - Photo credit:
  • 11. Collaborative – Museum as Platform Adrian McEwen - Show video
  • 12. Collaborative – Twacky Races Adrian McEwen -
  • 13. Thank You. Any Questions?
    • MCQN Ltd website:
    • Or email
    • My Personal Blog:
    • Or on twitter I’m @amcewen
    Adrian McEwen -