June 24, 2009


What color is Twitter?

En route to another thing I'm working on, I built a little color scraper that scans the Twitter public timeline for words describing colors. Any word that is a CSS3 web color name (which some of you graybeards may remember as similar to, but not exactly, the X11 colors), is detected and the corresponding R, G, B triple is saved. For example, consider the following tweet:

Finally found the WoW Mt. Dew Game few...the red one is good, but the blue one tastes like ass...

Because I only grabbed the first color in a tweet, the above results in red (255,0,0). Getting a few hundred of these took a day (6/24/2009), as the Twitter API limits how often you can query it. Consequently, most color tweets were missed. However I got enough to make the picture above, where every pixel corresponds to a tweet mentioning that color.

Some things to note:

Though an obvious next step would be to hook this up to some kind of color-changing LED display, I have a slightly more interesting idea. Stay tuned...

For your amusement, here is a text file with 300 color triples and the tweets that generated them.

Right, credit due! This was totally easy thanks to Python Twitter Tools and the webcolors library.

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June 6, 2009


Song of the Orbs

So we've been refreshing the sound modules on SWARM, and have been experimenting with multitrack audio. The idea is that you can, with one command, get all the orbs to play back different mp3 files at the same time, and they will stay roughly synchronized. Erik found some great multitrack Flaming Lips and a highlight of running the orbs was tooling around on the mothership, very late one night, to the sounds of the Orbs singing.

This sounded so good that I was inspired to make my own music for the Orbs. Originally this was a 64 minute audioscape I procedurally composed as an aid to insomnia (as much as I love Eno's Thursday Afternoon, there's only so many times you can listen to something, plus it's a little sparse to mask noise very well). It's not really a song, as nothing really happens: it's essentially a "Steve Reich ninth chord" (my specialist terminology) with some high-Q filter sweeps that pick out harmonics above. I re-mastered it as six separate stereo tracks, one for each robot; since it's one chord they will naturally harmonize. Seeing as how you likely don't have spare robots rolling around, here it is as one long track to soothe your insomnia (it's not particularly exciting): song_of_the_orbs.mp3 (77 MB)

Photo Credit: Marcus Hertlein

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