dadamachines by Johannes Lohbihler
The dadamachines automat toolkit by Johannes Lohbihler is an open source toolkit for creating instruments from arbitrary objects. A central controller connects a MIDI or other music controlling device to solenoids/motors that can interact with objects.
I like this project because it enables people to hack the physical world. I enjoy programming, but I would like to escape my 12 hours of daily screen time (My parents only let me have an hour a day as a child, so why is this suddenly OK?). Tools like this partially realize my dream for the future that goes something like this:
I am doing things in the tangible world. I encounter a difficult situation. I flip open my computer, type up some code to help deal with it. Then, I go about my merry way.
This toolkit provides a way for the expressive power of programming to be accessible and useful in a lightweight manner in our day-to-day lives.
This project shows the influence of Dadaism through its encouragement of readymade objects in music. It updates this in the context of electronic music and maker culture by connecting readymades to MIDIs through Arduino.
If you buy the large package for $750, you have to wonder, “Is this just an Arduino with fancy packaging? All it does is control solenoids and motors.” However, I think this project is exactly what the creators of Arduino had in mind with their platform: prototype with Arduino, then create a robust, specialized version. The creator partnered with manufacturers, engineers, and software developers from Germany and China to realize a product funded by €150,548 from 488 backers on Kickstarter.
This project inspires me to make things that interact with nature through programming. Nature is complex and it is hard to imagine how solenoids and motors will deal with messy natural substances. Maybe a device closely connected to the person operating it could combine the accuracy and repeatability of machines with the situated knowledge of humans to overcome this hurdle.