Raspberry Pi Creative Technologists: openFrameworks

A big part of my role at the Foundation is running the Raspberry Pi Creative Technologists programme. Over 12 months we take a small group of young people aged 16-21 years through field trips, hack events and online mentoring to find new ways of using digital technology to enhance their creative pursuits. Our latest field trip included a openFrameworks workshop in London with Hellicar & Lewis, a partner in the Creative Technologist programme. One of our CTs, Yasmin Curren, wrote about her experience… 

One of the major perks of being a Raspberry Pi Creative Technologist is the chance to attend weekend workshops, where we get to go to a totally different city and meet with inspiring and knowledgeable individuals who can help us on our journey towards our final exhibition and showing off our digital projects! Last workshop we visited London to spend the weekend over with Joel Lewis at Hellicar & Lewis; a craft, design and technology studio that specialises in engagement. Here, Joel opened our minds to the wonder that is openFrameworks on Pi!

The Raspberry Pi Creative Technologists take part in an openFrameworks workshop at Hellicar & Lewis

openFrameworks is ‘an open source C++ toolkit for creative coding’. Yes, creative coding, that’s a thing! At first glance oF can seem quite intimidating with countless amounts of libraries, add-ons and documentation attached to it. For us, taking a look through it all, we couldn’t help but get immediately excited about everything that oF had to offer us, from projection mapping and facial recognition to graphic rendering and animation as well as so much more! But without some guidance it’s easy to become overwhelmed by it all.

Luckily for us, Joel Lewis is an openFrameworks wizard and quickly squished any negative or fearful thoughts we may initially have had by showing us some of the inspiring work that he and his team at Hellicar & Lewis had produced using this framework. They have created work for nonprofit organisations such as an interactive arctic dome installation for Greenpeace, and commercial pieces for brands such as Nike with an interactive live broadcast for of Nike’s ‘Festival of Feel’.

However, what impressed me the most was how they had used what the framework had to offer to create pieces of technology to help make people’s lives better, one major piece of work being Somability. This is a series of technology applications that included interaction such as visual amplification and rhythmic interaction; these put together promoted expressive movement and collaboration among people with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

The Making of Somability from Cariad Interactive on Vimeo

Joel also emphasised his love for the open source community during the workshop. Gone are the days where people want to hide their work and keep their findings to themselves so as to become better than their peers; today’s world is all about being open and sharing with the community! Every library and add-on within oF has been created by somebody and shared freely, asking for nothing in return. That might sound crazy but in reality it’s actually very clever! Not only do you help others (such as myself) to learn how to code by looking at examples and tweaking bits that are already there to suit my own needs, you also get the benefits of the community building upon your initial piece of code, fixing bugs or even making it better than you could have done yourself. Heck, somebody might even see your open source code and offer you a job because of it!

An open source community is also a friendly one, one where people actually want to help others instead of simply focusing on their own projects, and therefore the openFrameworks forum is always full of people willing to pass on their knowledge to others and help wherever they can; which is great news for us newbies!

The Raspberry Pi Creative Technologists get to grips with openFrameworks with the help of Joel Lewis of Hellicar & Lewis

After the weekend at Hellicar & Lewis I’m left feeling very excited about what openFrameworks and the open source community surrounding it has to offer. I can’t wait to start piecing together my own puzzle!

The Creative Technologists are really ramping up production on their final projects and I can’t wait to see what they do with their new openFrameworks skills. Keep an eye on the blog for updates from CTs over the next six months!