Monday, January 13, 2014

Laser Cutting and Wire Splicing

The transition back to work after the holidays can be hard, with rigorous pseudoscience declaring the first Monday back the most depressing day of the year. Lucky for me, I got to spend Blue Monday (and the rest of the week) having fun laser cutters and LED pixels with Chris, Shelly, Ivan, and Melissa.

As part of the FUSE Labs MakeFest, our team built the cloud-shaped mobile pictured above. The mobile uses light and sound to reflect the mood on Twitter surrounding a given term -- in a sense creating a physical representation of a Twitter word cloud. For example, the term "seahawks" might make the cloud light up red (for hostility) and green (for joviality) as the team makes its way towards the Super Bowl, while the term "polar vortex" may make the cloud light up yellow (for fear) and blue (for sadness). Corresponding sound plays as well.

To represent the mood surrounding a term, we fetch the 100 most recent tweets associated with the term and identify 16 corresponding terms (e.g., "#12thman" for "seahawks"). Sentiment is then extracted from the tweets associated with the corresponding terms and mapped to a sound, color, and intensity. All of this is done in the (virtual) cloud using an Azure service.

A Raspberry Pi on the (physical) cloud then fetches and displays the mood information. Color starts at the top of the cloud and drips down the light strands as time passes. In the coming weeks, we hope to implement rain, thunder, and lightening to reflect particularly interesting events.

In just one week, our team designed and built the structure, learned to work with the Raspberry Pi, and deployed the Azure service. But the cloud will be a lasting art installation for you to enjoy and interact with when you visit the lab!

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