Apples, pears, potatoes… With Makey Makey nearly anything allows you to control a computer. At the electro festival Scopitone in Nantes, the workshop “burn the keyboard” produced fun and easy to reproduce projects. Makery was there.
Nantes, special report (words and photos)
Outside the tumult of the electro programme of the Scopitone festival in Nantes from the 15th until the 20th of September, a group of seven people is busy fine tuning fun prototypes in an isolated room of Stereolux, organisers of the event. For two days, on the 15th and 16th of September, workshop participants indulged in the pleasures of creative and fun DIY during a workshop, the title of which, “Makey Makey: burn the keyboard,” immediately sets the tone.
Here, no complex programming, but full-scale hacking thanks to the controlling of Makey Makey, the kit that allows you to replace the keyboard buttons with any conductive object, fruit and vegetables included.
For starters, a little hacking on historic games
“The objective of this workshop is to create fun video installations based on feeling and body experience”, explains Rémy Sohier. The co-leader of the workshop and teacher-researcher at Paris 8 University, responded to the call of Scopitone that wanted to include fun in its cultural mediation, responding to the Ultima exhibition, pop museum of video games in the Lieu unique.
By associating the discovery of Makey Makey with the use of Scratch, the super intuitive programming language created for children by the MIT Media Lab, the workshop serves as a pretext to initiate participants to the history of video games and the essential principles of game design, explains Henri Morawski, co-leader of the workshop and member of the collective Alineaire.
“We hacked video games such as the very charming independent platform game You have to win the game to explain the principle of Makey Makey by replacing the buttons with fruit and vegetables. We also worked on the methodology and exercises that are based on my PhD work, adds Rémy Sohier, author of a thesis on the sensitivity in the creation and the experience of the player. It is now up to the participants to imagine the applications they can make of it.”
Surprise box and potato race
Amongst the pile up of the little green boxes of the Makey Makey packaging, the rolls of sticky tape, the foil and waste cardboard constitute the main part of the equipment provided for the participants, adults from education, fine arts or scientific mediation. And no need to be an electronics specialist to get results.
“I enjoy DIY, but I am a novice,” says Marion, schoolteacher who had a go with an installation that is easy to reproduce in class. Relying on the element of surprise and on riddles, she hid in cardboard boxes diverse substances –cotton, washing-up scraper or even cup of a water– that stimulate activities created with Scratch when you touch them.
Still in a friendly spirit and a joking manner, Florelle Pacot, visual artist and mediator in the Saint-Nazaire art centre, reinvents the potato sack race with real potatoes.
Each player grabs a potato connected to the Makey Makey card. Four racing tracks are displayed on the screen. On kick-off, you need to frantically hit the potato to make its avatar move forward. “I made the adjustment very slow on purpose to make it even funnier”, she explains. In fact, the potatoes move at snail’s pace and the players get frantic. Difficult to determine the winner on the finish line.
Piano with two keys and ball to blow
Far from sticking to two notes, his installation allows for complex harmonic constructions. On each pressure, the ruler sends a message of change of chord and an arpeggio.
At the end of the workshop, members of a scientific mediation association are testing their board game, in the true sense of the word. The objective? Score points by making a sliver foil ball roll by blowing on it. Enough to finish in good spirit a workshop that does not take itself seriously.
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