Saturday, March 28, 2009

Playing with Pachube

Finally had a little time to investigate a web-based service called Pachube. For those that have not heard of it, Pachube is a service that enables users to share and connect real time sensor data from objects, devices and environments both real and virtual.

The key aim is to facilitate interaction between remote environments, both physical and virtual. Apart from enabling direct connections between any two environments, it can also be used to facilitate many-to-many connections: just like a physical "patch bay" (or telephone switchboard) Pachube enables any participating project to "plug-in" to any other participating project in real time so that, for example, buildings, interactive installations or blogs can "talk" and "respond" to each other.

It is currently in beta, so I had a little play to get an idea of the fundamentals. To make full use of the service you need to be given an API key, to allow you to access outputs and create inputs.

Playing with Pachube in SL

This windsock object in Second Life, is connected to an Output feed from a Weather Station in Grimsby, that returns data as a comma seperated values.
The windspeed data, is used to effect the tension of the flexiprim that makes the windsock, making it visualise windspeed in a more familiar fashion.

Anyway, this was a simple exercise to see how Pachube works with an object in SL.

Using this principle, Second Life environments can be controlled or respond to realworld realtime data through Pachube, for example an Arduino Microcontroller, that allows for some physical interactive object/wearable computer to control Virtual Content. The reverse is true, and objects in Second Life can be used to send data to a Pachube feed to be shared, allowing for an avatar - to make a realworld installation change.

In my experimentation, I had a play with Processing, and created a simple sketch that was effected by Second Life data on a input feed I created. It is important that if you are using Pachube with Processing you download the EEML Library.

Whilst Pachube is in beta, data is refreshed every 5 secs, so GET(ing) and POST(ing) data to a feed, can't be any faster. So for the moment, don't expect to create dynamic updating several times a second... ( which would be great if I was pulling Avatar data into some Motion Graphics program in Processing )

Whats great with Pachube though, is that its a community of shared data, so many users could take the data and use it in different ways.... particularly for myself, I may take real world information simply to be part of some generative artwork in SL, whilst others may want to visualise the same data in another way. From this, interesting and unexpected results could happen..

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