Interact News

Creat-A-Con is Almost Here!

Posted: Mon, 09 Feb 2015 12:22

Creat-A-Con is Almost Here!

Creat-A-Con will be coming to Leicester on the 21st February at the Queens Building at De Montfort University. This free event aims to inspire young people in the key S.T.E.M. areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Interact Labs will be at the event demonstrating:

  • The Edison robot and our robot arm
  • The WaterColourBot drawing machine
  • Scratch programming on the Raspberry Pi
  • Our 3D printer
  • DIY Virtual Reality headsets

Plus we will be making Arduino-powered interactive lights for use at the MyOptik Festival on the 28th February and testing the wireless video system we are making for the Image is the Servent event on the 27th February.

As if that isn't enough, we will also be showing the Creative Manifesto LED video wall.

Come and be creative with digital technology.

3D Printing / Arduino Projects

Posted: Fri, 23 Jan 2015 21:07

3D Printing / Arduino Projects

We have a couple of interesting 3D Printing / Arduino projects in the Lab at the moment. Both are being undertaken by final-year DMU Music Technology students and involve the construction of music input devices.

Luke Petterson's project involves modifying a MIDI keyboard to feature transparent keys with coloured LEDs within them to provide a learning and performance tool. The challenges of this project include 3D printing the transparent keys for the keyboard and developing Arduino technology to control the LEDs in the keys.

Evan Campbell is creating a MIDI controller that will contain distance sensors and a switch pad. The distance sensors will allow the musician to be expressive and the switch pad will be used to create a drum sequencer. Again the project makes use of an Arduino, with 3D printing used to create the housing.

Both project are moving ahead nicely. There will be a chance to look at both projects in detail next month at the Creat-A-Con event on the 21st February and in the next Open Lab on the 24th February.

3D Printer Experiments

Posted: Wed, 14 Jan 2015 16:20

3D Printer Experiments

One of the great things about the "fused filament" 3D printer we use in the Lab at Phoenix is that you can use it to experiment with different printing materials. It's had wood-based filament run through it recently, as well as flexible BendLay, ColorFabb copperFill and water-soluble PVA.

These newer filaments allow for some quite interesting print effects and let make things that don't initially look as if they have been 3D printed. The copperFill looks particularly impressive once you have sanded-down the model. The PVA has a different use though. On a dual-head printer you can use it to make dissolvable support structures.

Support structures are needed whenever you are trying to print something with overhangs. They consist of thin 'towers' of plastic that hold up the parts of your print that would otherwise sag or collapse if you didn't use them. Support is designed to be removed easily, but this process can take a while and may leave ugly marks on your print.

Enter the idea of using PVA for support. Polyvinyl Alcohol is a polymer that can be turned in to a filament that will run through a 3D printer at a similar temperature to common PLA. When used as a support material for PLA prints it does the job of supporting overhangs during the print but when the printing process is complete there is no need to remove it manually. Instead, you simply pop your model in a bowl of water for a few hours and the PVA support simply dissolves away.

It look us a few attempts to get the process to work but once we got the temperature right the process works pretty reliability. During the build we found that the models can look very messy - the picture attached shows a model that has a mixture of white PVA supports and a red PLA body - but once they have been left in water overnight they look fine.

We obtained our PVA filament from the iMakr shop in London. You'll also find it on eBay.

Affective Digital Histories Apps

Posted: Thu, 27 Nov 2014 21:25

Affective Digital Histories Apps

The public launch of Affective Digital Histories took place at LCB Depot in Leicester's Cultural Quarter on Thursday 27 November 2014.

The event was well attended and attracted local media attention. Throughout the evening there were talks by project members; the first showing of a short film about the project; a live performance by award winning Leicester poet and playwright Carol Leeming; and opportunities to download and try two new apps - Hidden Stories and Sounds of the Cultural Quarter - that have been developed as part of the Affective Digital Histories project.

Feedback from attendees was very positive and there have been over 100 downloads of the apps already. Visit the Affective Digital Histories apps page to find links to both the iPhone and Android versions.

Creative Manifesto LED Video Wall

Posted: Mon, 17 Nov 2014 18:51

Creative Manifesto LED Video Wall

If you've visited the Lab over the past few months you will have noticed that its been somewhat 'busy'. The set-up for the Interact exhibition at LCB Depot in September was based there, same for Esther Rolinson's exhibition at Phoenix, the Affective Digital Histories video booth was there for a while and, most noticeably, Creative Manifesto have been using it to build their LED video screen.

Watching the Creative Manifesto project take shape has been fascinating. The group was successful in getting Arts Council funding to design and build a 24 panel video screen that could be use to showcase local artists' work. The screen was constructed using LED 'pixel strings', Fadecandy controllers and some cleverly modified plastic greenhouse panels. Members of Creative Manifesto have been using Interact Labs to make the screen - and also tapping in to our electronics and programming expertise.

The first outing of the screen was on Sunday night as part of the Light The Night festival in Leicester's Cultural Quarter. It was installed in the window of the Exchange Bar and looked amazing. The public was clearly impressed, with large crowds watching the animations on screen and taking photographs.

The screen will be installed at Exchange for a week or so, so there is plenty of time to go and have a look in the evenings. Pictures from the Light The Night event can be found here on Flickr. There is a video of the screen here on YouTube.

We will be publishing full construction details for the project on this website soon.

Esther Rolinson: Melt, Splinter & Thread

Posted: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:58

Esther Rolinson: Melt, Splinter & Thread

Interact Labs' Sean Clark has been one of a number of people helping Esther Rolinson to realise her lighting installations Splinter, Thread and Melt this year. It's been an interesting journey and we're happy to see that the work will be going on display at the Phoenix Cube later in the month. Two exhibitions, one containing and Splinter and Thread and the other containing Melt, will be running between 23th October 2014 and 7th January 2015 at Phoenix.

The exhibition press release reads, "Over the past year, with the support of Arts Council England and De Montfort University, she has been developing this body of work through modelling and drawing. She has worked with Sean Clark, Dave Everitt, Luke Woodbury and Graeme Stuart who have assisted with research into the technology and materials and the development of complex lighting behaviours."

Find out more on her website.

Interact Exhibition @ LCB Depot

Posted: Sun, 28 Sep 2014 20:03

Interact Exhibition @ LCB Depot

The Interact @ LCB exhibition of digital art opened on Thursday 25th September. A good-sized audience saw a wide range of digital artworks by local and national artists. The exhibition is open weekdays until 10th October, and ends with a live event on the Friday evening. See pictures from the opening here on Flickr. If the exhibition goes down well, we will try to make it an annual event.

Interactive Lighting with Arduino

Posted: Mon, 01 Sep 2014 00:57

Interactive Lighting with Arduino

Our introduction to Arduino workshops have proven to be very popular this year. For those who want to develop their Arduino skills further, however, we are now looking to run a new Interactive Lighting with Arduino workshop at Interact Labs. This will show you how to wire up and program LED 'pixels' in order to create lighting installations and similar projects. The first workshop is on the 4th October. It's going to be popular, so book now.

Robots, Virtual Reality and 3D Printing!

Posted: Sun, 03 Aug 2014 22:27

Robots, Virtual Reality and 3D Printing!

If there are three things that are sure to draw a crowd at Interact Labs then they are robots, Virtual Reality and 3d printing. These technologies remain very much 'of the moment' and can be a great way to introduce people to creative technology. We've featured them at a number of our events recently.

On July 8th the first of our regular 3D printer nights saw 11 people visit the Lab for an introduction to 3D printing and a safety induction for the FlashForge Creator II 3D printer we use. Given that we have been running sessions like this since we opened in October 2013, it's great to see that interest in these sessions is still high. The next one will be on the 12th August. We also have a more advanced workshop coming up in September.

On July 18th we ran our first 'Open Lab' drop-in afternoon where the device of most interest was the Oculus Rift and, to a lesser extent, the Google Cardboard. Interest in Virtual Reality is on the rise, largely thanks to the Oculus, which seems to impress most users. We might look to run Virtual Reality workshops in the future - perhaps focussed around the low-cost and self-constructured Google Cardboard device.

Finally, just last Friday, we ran the first of our 'Technology Explorer' sessions for young people. While the 3D printer went down well, the most popular devices were our computer-controlled robot arm and the Cubelet robot construction kits. Note to self, kids love robots.

Keep an eye on the website for details of future events and activities.

Interact Labs Bursaries

Posted: Sat, 05 Jul 2014 00:39

Interact Labs Bursaries

Phoenix Interact Labs is announcing a programme of support to help artists based in Leicester and Leicestershire be creative with digital technology.

If you're an artist, designer or technologist interested in experimenting with technology in your practice, we are offering bursaries of up to £500, plus a workspace and individual programmes of support to help you create innovative new work.

We're interested in supporting projects that engage with technology and digital culture in a significant and critical way.

Selected artists will have the freedom to develop their projects in the Phoenix Interact Labs space, and work with us to consider new ways of engaging the public beyond the traditional exhibition format.

Visit for more information and an application form.

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