Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Cyclopean Eye

The tiniest springs I could find in my "this could be useful" parts bin

The eyes are an important means of expression of the "soul" of a person, animal or character. The only external organ that connects directly to the brain through the shortest possible path.
The eyes of the creator move nervously as he scans its surroundings. Its world. They are animated by a simple spring mechanism that responds to the smallest movement. I did not know it was going to be so challenging to do this, except that, as we have found out, scale matters. And the smaller the scale the more critical the elements become.

The springs proved to be too weak to support the weight of the eye,
so I added a coat of latex to strengthen and stiffen it a bit,
but it proved to be a little too much so I ended up burning the latex away.
The residue that it left iwas just the right amount.

Lorena irritating the eyes

Of course the real "eye" of the Creator is up in the sky, or rather the ceiling in this case. This cyclopean eye that sees and controls everything is more and more a pervasi and accepted fact of life, in our streets, our buildings and even our homes, not to mention the "real" and inaccessible eye in the sky who observes and analyzes our every move, both as a species as well as individually when the need arises.

A very wide angle camera (76 degrees) was the choice after a good deal of research, and it proved to be the right one. I like that it is flat and although the base actually sucks if you are going to use it on a desk or a monitor it is perfect to tape to the roof and adjust the angle precisely. I needed a wide angle because the ceiling at the venue is not very tall and the camera must cover at least a 10x10 mt performing area, the world of the Creator, its Tartarus.

HP 2 megapixel camera, 76 degrees FOV

Related to the eyes or rather vision system is the light. Not the infrared light that the camera detects and processes but the actual "stage lighting". For quite a while I thought I was going to have to finagle a small lighting system form the theatre department at my university but since that was not very promising I started looking around for solutions.

I must say I am very happy with the outcome. I bought some inexpensive 12 LED flashlights at the local supermarket and hacked them (literally) so as to keep only the front portion. The advantage, in this case, of a cheap Chinese product is that it was very easy to solder to it, unlike more sophisticated models. The beam is extremely bright and is easily controlled by the microcontroller. So I have 4 "spots" with different color lights (a color filter on the LED's) to dramatize the scene and automatically create different moods according to the moment.

I got the plastic flexible contraption to where I attached the light base from one of my many "possible useful things" boxes. I wish I knew what it is or where it came from, maybe someone does becasue it is extremely practical for this and I am sure, other, applications. I suspect that it might belong to some fluid dispensing system.

The following are the very first tests with my new lighting system. I love it! absolute and precise positional and intensity control.

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