‘Driving into the Future’ at QUT

This is a guest blog post by Jackie Child, Teacher Librarian from St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School. This post appeared first on tinkeringchild.com.

“Roboticists suggest that driverless cars could soon be driving on Australian roads if road legislations reform and technology matures. Developing systems to deal with inclement weather, improving sensing of pedestrians and bicycles, and less predictable elements are some of the issues that need to be addressed before we experience a driverless society.”

This was the preamble of the workshop our students attended at QUT. Here’s a video. It is part of the education program provided for schools. It is free and if you are in Brisbane ….it’s a must!! View workshop details.

Our girls proposed and programmed robotic solutions to develop driverless cars using a range of sensors and LEGO robotics. It was the first time for many girls. Leighann and Toby clearly and effectively guided the girls through coding and building their robots to move and use sensors …….. having heaps of fun while learning.

The girls had three challenges to complete with or without sensors. They soon worked out how to find the threshold value for the colour sensor and were able to program their robot to stay on dry land (pale green) to rescue the stranded vehicle.

Another challenge was using the ultrasonic sensor to read depth of light. The girls worked out how to stop the robot t the edge of the table first! Plenty of fun catching it before it fell off, take a look at this video 🙂

The communication tower at the top of Mt Coot-tha required fixing without falling off the mountain! The girls were so excited to see their robots toppling and dancing on the mountain!

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Throughout the day the girls enjoyed interacting with the Cube’s screen projects Dino Zoo, Chem World, Physics Observatory and The Arcade, I think the favourite was the Arcade which consisted of three retro inspired games including – Block Breakers, Parabola Pirates and Space Junk.

All girls agreed it was a FABULOUS day of fun and learning!

 

Tuning back in from the reverberating world of ECHO …

A month under my belt and still two to go. The project is growing limbs by the second and each day seems more exciting than the last. Tech wise our facial tracking application is well on the way to having the main functionality working smoothly.  Here’s a taster video of the first stage recorded live from the application with a few treatments added.

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The next stage is user interface design and narrative content. It’s time to bring fiction, drama and sound to the work so you might see me cruising around Kelvin Grove campus collecting and researching personal stories. Don’t be shy, come and say Hello and get involved in my project.

Over the next three weeks I’ll use this research to write some intimate stories with the help of the creative writing and drama students.  These narratives will be integrated into the final user experience where you literally see through someone else’s eyes, kickstarting the empathy engine..

Still so much to do but with the support of The Cube and the Creative Industries team, anything is possible!

The Cube turns 4

Happy Birthday to us!!! The Cube just turned 4 and like all birthdays we’ve been celebrating our achievements and thinking about what’s to come in 2017 …

2016 was a big one for us with the Dino Zoo Holiday Program attracting over 24,000 visitors in January 2016. For all you dinosaur lovers, you can still catch Dino Zoo on our screens, check Cube Screens for dates/times.

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Lauren McCarthy completed the TRANSMIT³ Residency, The Changing Room, which explored the potential of The Cube as a “smart social environment,” responsive to the mood and activity of the people that inhabit it. The Changing Rooms was a custom software installation and performance that allowed participants to select one of hundreds of emotions, evoking that emotion in them and everyone in the space through a layered environment of light, visuals, sound, text, and interaction exhibited over a multi-level, many-sided display. Dealing with themes of surveillant architectures, social technologies, and smart homes, the piece simultaneously invades and cares for the emotions of passersby. Read more about Lauren’s final performance.

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Physics Observatory launched in September school holidays and a very successful holiday program and Physics Fun Day followed in January 2017. At the moment our public programs team are busily preparing for the Easter Holiday Program which we can reveal involves a QUT exclusive from Street Science. Sign up to the holiday eNews to be the first to hear about bookings.

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Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visited QUT to launch a flood management tool and summit that could help protect their country and Queensland. The Dutch royals, making their first visit to Australia since taking the throne, were shown the Smart Scanner for Water Resilient Cities, developed by QUT’s Dutch collaborators Deltares and HydroNET, during their visit to QUT’s Gardens Point campus. Translated on to The Cube’s screens, QUT researchers demonstrated the tool’s ability to predict likely flood impacts from a mix of different local measures and contrasting weather events. Read more about this in QUT’s news story.

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What’s coming up in 2017?

The Cube Studio are busily developing their new screen project Code-A-Bot for launch at Robotronica 2017. Code-A-Bot will allow people to work together to run a recycling factory as efficiently as possible. You will need to attach parts to your own robot and then code the robot on the screen in order to perform tasks. This will be a great introduction to coding and will showcase QUT’s robotics initiatives, while also inspiring group collaboration and a greater understanding of resource management.

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Georgie Pinn’s residency Echo is underway and we are excited to see what comes of her research project which uses interactive facial detection technology, combined with animation and sound. Read more about Georgie in her first blog post.

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Welcome Georgie

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Ello!

I’m a multimedia artist completing a residency at The Cube for the next three months.
I studied Vis Arts at QUT way back in the 90’s and since then I have been travelling across Europe and Australia making audio visual work for both stage and screen. 17 years later I’m back and with my geek on…

Here’s a link to my Showreel if you’re interested: https://vimeo.com/159136216

My creative practice has, for many years, used technology to explore notions of physical and emotional empathy. Here and now I’ll be developing a project called Echo. Over the next few months I’ll be designing elements and software for an interactive installation that is a morphing virtual mirror. The viewer will be able to customise an interchangeable avatar and fragment and mix their own face with the features of other people and animals, creating a range of morphing hybrid personalities. We’re also developing a real time facial tracking application that copies your expressions as you wear anothers face or multiple faces.

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I want to explore how we respond to our face being fragmented and manipulated by others and if it is possible to build community by developing a truly ‘shared’ identity? Does a combined identity extend the parts of us or dilute us? What can we learn about narcism and empathy through this experience? And what can we learn about micro expressions?

Two weeks in and already progress is being made within Unity, the game engine we are using to build the software. I’m also loving getting lost in transmission chaos land of animated glitch fragments! Here’s a video link to some animation tests I’ve been playing with: https://vimeo.com/203231463

In April the installation will run and the animated portraits will be installed into The Cube with an event that showcases the application as a live tool for Public performance.
Will tune in again soon, hope to face mosh with you…

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Putting the fun back into physics!

On Saturday 7 January, 4,200 visitors flocked to The Cube for an extra dose of physics fun to celebrate the opening of the Physics Observatory Summer Holiday Program.

We presented a range of Physics-inspired workshops including Hula Hooping by Vulcana Women’s Circus, live science shows by Street Science, a 3D flight simulator game facilitated by the QUT STEM for Schools team and Physics 101 workshops from QUT Physics Society. The live science shows by QUT Alumni Steve Liddell were a massive hit! Kids were amazed by Steve’s science experiments including exploding balloons with liquid nitrogen and a real hand-held fireball.

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Activities from Physics Observatory Holiday Program also ran throughout the day including Physics Wiz Treasure Hunt which allowed families to discover hidden elements of the Holiday Program. Kids were also awarded a ‘Physics Wiz’ sticker! Other activities included Ball Run, which encouraged kids to compare how far and fast balls can travel using tubes and everyday materials on a magnetic wall. Take to the Sky was another popular (paper plane making) activity, which got kids thinking about gravitational forces and how fast and far their planes could fly.

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We also announced the winners of the ‘Life on Mars’ Competition. Kids were asked to draw what they imagined life on Mars might look like incorporating what they know about STEM. Banjo Seaniger (8 years) won an Xbox One and Runners up Shaun Gareth (13 years) and Mikayla Daley (12 years) won admission to one of The Cube’s 2017 holiday programs.

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Thanks for everyone who joined us for Physics Fun Day and for those who couldn’t make it Physics Observatory Holiday Program continues everyday 10am-4pm until Sunday 15 January. Check out this video for a taste of the program.

3, 2, 1, LEGO … !

On Saturday 19 November, The Cube played host once again to FIRST® LEGO® League, welcoming 360 students and their team coaches, parents, teachers and peers to QUT’s Science and Engineering Centre. The energy and enthusiasm of the participants was palpable and just one of the reasons FIRST® LEGO® League is a highlight of the year, transforming the Science and Engineering Centre into a hive of activity!

This year’s challenge was based on the theme: ANIMAL ALLIES. Teams of up to 10 students researched, programmed, and prepared from August through November ‘to think of people and animals as allies in the quest to make life better for everyone’. The tournament involved:

  • 360 students 
  • 220 parents, teachers, grandparents, peers, siblings … 
  • 108 (2.5 minute) robot game rounds 
  • 52 staff and volunteers 
  • 41 team coaches
  • 36 teams from 22 locations (see team map below)
  • 36 robots 
  • 12 award recipients
  • 6 robot game tables
  • 4 practice tables
  • 4 concurrent activities (Robot Game, Robot Design, Project, Core Values)
  • 4 national qualifiers 
  • And many LEGO pieces! 

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One of the team coaches, Jackie Child, captured the spirit of the tournament experience in her article, Our FIRST LEGO League Journey.

Twelve awards were presented this year to the following teams:

Champions Award – iCode 22
Robot Performance – OLA Cybermonkeys
Robot Design (Mechanical Design) – Robros
Robot Design (Programming) – RobotIGGS
Robot Design (Strategy and Innovation) – Lego Central
Project (Research) – MGH Robots 2
Project (Innovation) – iCode New Dawn
Project (Presentation) – Sharks
Core Values (Gracious Professionalism) – Lasiorhinus krefftii Mark II
Core Values (Teamwork) – Hillbrook Team 1
Core Values (Inspiration) – Omega Dragons
Judge Award – Padua College 1 

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Those selected for the Nationals at Macquarie University, Sydney, on 10 December, are: 

  • iCode 22
  • iCode New Dawn
  • Padua College 2
  • OLA Cybermonkeys 

Congratulations again to all participating teams – until next year!

Jacina Leong and Elise Wilkinson – Co–Directors, FIRST LEGO League, and Public Programs, The Cube

The Changing Room—final performance

My residency at The Cube concluded last month with the opening of my piece The Changing Room.

How would you like to feel? What if you could make it happen with a touch of a screen? What would you do with complete control over your own emotions and those of the people around you?

The Changing Room is a custom software installation and performance that allows participants to select one of hundreds of emotions, evoking that emotion in them and everyone in the space through a layered environment of light, visuals, sound, text, and interaction exhibited over a multi-level, many-sided display. Dealing with themes of surveillant architectures, social technologies, and smart homes, the piece simultaneously invades and cares for the emotions of passersby.

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Upon entering the main space, you are confronted with the question, “Do you want to feel?”, and you are given the opportunity to select the emotion you’d like to experience.

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The Changing Room then gets to work trying to make everyone in the space feel that emotion as intensely as possible.

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Every zone of The Cube becomes active with different instructions, graphics, and activities that it guides passersby through. In one zone, your voice is interpreted as animated objects moving around the screens. If you touch them to pop them, a command is released instructing you to “hug the person next to you”, or “curl up into a ball”.

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People in the booths are confronted with a monolithic block that slides back and forth roulette style, randomly choosing a booth to light up with an instruction intended for that group.

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On the second floor, your body position is analyzed as you’re guided through a series of positions and contortions. The process of assuming the various positions is designed to  evoke the emotion that’s been selected in the main space.

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In another zone, ambient sound and voices are picked up by a series of microphones distributed throughout the area and analyzed. Depending on the currently selected emotion, you are instructed to adapt yourself to “share your feelings”, “calm down”, or “express more joy”.

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The opening was accompanied by a special performance and dinner during which participants were fully immersed in The Changing Room. Performers took cues from The Cube and worked to amplify the emotions and guide conversation around themes of surveillance and social technology.

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The evening concluded with a series of toasts to the future. While participants felt a mix of hope, fear, and ambiguity, I think we all left with a sense of open curiosity and questioning.

The Changing Room was created in collaboration with Sean Druitt, Ryan Bargiel, Allan Bishop, Samuel Collins, Daniel Fisher, Simon Harrison, Brian Jeffery, and the rest of the QUT Cube Team, and Andy Bates and Yu Kao. Performers included Viv Coburn, Brittany Hurkmans, Jacob Nye, Tiffany Symons, and Jackie Taylor. This project was completed as part of a TRANSMIT³ Residency at The Cube, QUT. The residency is presented by Ars Electronica and QUT.

Thank you QUT for having me and supporting this project! I am back in the states now and missing Australia already.

Photos by Kyle McDonald

Learn about gravity in the Physics Observatory

I recently went to the doctors, (nothing serious, just a check-up but thanks for asking), the doctor weighed me, he then read out a number and entered it into his computer. The number was 70. What does 70 mean? 70 what? Well kilograms apparently; but what does that mean? I know it’s the same as 70 bags of sugar, but what is the bag of sugar equal to? What does weight actually mean?

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Weight, as we know it, could more accurately be called force, it is the force in which your body or mass is being pulled towards the scales by the gravity of the Earth (don’t try telling your wife it looks like she is putting on a little force, it’s still rude… apparently!). The number we call weight is the result of multiplying our mass by gravity, therefore, if we want our weight number to be less we can reduce our mass or the gravitational acceleration of the Earth, which is easier than you may think!

If I were in a plane flying at 35,000 feet, the gravitational effect of the Earth would be less and the scales I have strapped to my feet would show 69.72kg (yay, it’s working!). If I were to then jump from the plane the scales would read 0this is because the scales are also falling and have nothing to press against to make a reading so I’d still weigh 70kg (boo!). But when I hit the ground my weight would shoot up to 428 kg for a very brief time then cease to be an issue.

If I wanted to lose a little weight I could just move to Denver, Colorado. In Denver, I would only weigh 69.92 kg however in Helsinki I would bust the scales at 70.13 kg. This is due to the irregular surface of the Earth; altitude, local topography and geology all play a part in how gravity affects us and our weight.

If mass and gravity are the factors we calculate weight by, what happens if we crank up the numbers? The Sun, with its huge mass, has a gravitational pull 28 times higher than Earth’s so if I were to stand on the surface of the sun, I would weigh nearly 2 tonnes (wow!). Although my gargantuan weight would be the least of my issues!!!

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In the Physics Observatory, the new screen project at The Cube, users can adjust the gravity of the room with the gravity board. Visitors can slide the gravity changer all the way from 0g to the same gravity as the Sun. All of the objects in the observatory are affected by the gravity change, even the water flowing from the lion’s mouth and the swinging pendulum; it is lots of fun flinging hundreds of blocks around the room in 0g!

Come have fun with physics at the Physics Observatory. It’s officially opening on 17 September and there will be a physics-inspired holiday program in December/January Summer Holidays.

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RESIDENCY PRESENTATION: THE CUBE AS A SMART SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

Hi, Lauren here. I’m wrapping up my two month TRANSMIT3 Residency at The Cube and next Thursday 11 August will be the official opening of the new piece I’ve been working on with the team.

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The event will feature an interactive performance installation in which we dine together in a near future where we change feelings like channels on a TV, swipe left for nostalgia, swipe right for glee, and follow each other as The Cube tracks us all.

Stay tuned for my last blog post which details how this event plays out.