Capturing a Dancer’s Movements Wirelessly


Methods for Misunderstanding the Nature of Things involves a number of digital elements, including the need to track the movements of a dancer in real-time. These movements will then be sent to a drawing machine where they will be visualised as an ongoing record of the performance. Working out the best technology to use for this has involved considering a number of important requirements.

Firstly, whatever is used it has to be unobtrusive and wearable, so as not to affect the dancer’s performance. Then, it probably needs to be wireless, for the same reason. The battery needs to last at least for 30 minutes. It needs to have a motion sensor (of course), and, finally, the data has to be sent to another device (probably a computer) so that it can be turned in to a drawing visualisation.

After experimenting with standard Arduinos and external components I realised that while I could make such a device, it was clearly going to be a bit bigger than I hoped.

Then I discovered the LightBlue Bean. This little Arduino compatible board runs off of a coin battery, communicates over Bluetooth and has an accelerometer built in. It could have been designed for the project!

I’ve developed a little bit of code that allows Processing to read the data wirelessly from the Bean and am now experimenting with it to make sure that it meets the other requiremes, to do with battery life and robustness. So far it certainly seems to be.


Tabla Data Capture – Conductive Paint?

We had a useful session yesterday looking at different ways in which we could take data from the tabla and use it to trigger lighting.


I wrote a couple of Max patches to take the sound of the tabla and convert it in to lighting states. These were primarily based on simple sound volume analysis, but produced decent results. The use of an external microphone connected to an Arduino that in turn fed data to the Max patch worked well and it would be quite possible to identify which drum is being struck by using a mic connected to each one.

Another option we talked about was using conductive paint to “wire up” a tabla with touch pads. This might be an interesting thing to try since it would allow us to pick up much more of the subtlety of the performance and report back on the way in which the drum is touched – rather than just relying on the sound they made.


The paint – made by Bare Conductive – would also offer interesting aesthetic possibilities. The next thing to try is to mock up the tabla touch pads on cardboard to that we can get an idea of how well it works.