SeeMore has been described as “the brainchild of an artist and a computer scientist.”
Perhaps this is best captured in a series of emails that began in March 2013. Virginia Tech Professor and Computer Scientist Kirk W. Cameron, Ph.D. sent the following email to Professor and Head of the VT School of Visual Arts Kevin Concannon. Kirk had recently read an article about Raspberry Pi’s and was feeling rather inspired and looking for a creative outlet. Here is the full text:
Date: Tue, 19 Mar 2013 10:17:29 -0400
Subject: Raspberry Pi Project
From: Kirk W. Cameron (@vt.edu)
To: Kevin Concannon (@vt.edu)
I’m not sure who to contact regarding sculpture design here at VT. I
am a VT Computer Science professor and had an idea I’d like to explore
with someone on campus that is capable of creating a large (6-12 feet)
sculpture. In my group, we build high-performance systems using many
smaller PC components. The general idea is I’d like to create a
“working sculpture” where computer parts are assembled (on a frame of
some kind), connected together via wires, and used to run a display.
The base piece, a computer board, we would use in the construction of
the sculpture is called a Raspberry Pi.
These inexpensive boards are designed to put computing in the hands of
people worldwide — truly democratizing computing for the masses.
Combined with additional materials (e.g. steel or aluminum framing,
etc) I think this could potentially make for a cool, meaningful
sculpture that symbolizes the intersection of people, computing, and
Could you suggest either a faculty member or local student artist that
would be interested in something like this? We have some funds for the
materials, but likely not much for the individual though there may be
some options available to provide a small commission. One line item
for discussion is a budget for the project. I was looking to complete
this by years end or early 2014.
Thanks for letting me know.
Kirk W. Cameron
Professor, Computer Science
AND HERE ARE THE FOLLOW ON EMAILS:
KEVIN (MARCH 20): “Sam Blanchard runs our sculpture program. I have copied him here…..”
SAM (MARCH 20): “Kirk, I’ll love to here more about it. Perhaps we could get together and discuss further the potential of this collaboration? Just let me know what works for you. Thanks. Sam.”
APRIL 10, 2013: Sam and Kirk met at Starbucks in the AM Wednesday. This meeting was exceptional: full of serendipity, excitement, vision, and probably some naivete. In any case, by the end of the meeting, we had conceived and Sam had sketched SeeMore, the first kinetic sculpture and parallel raspberry Pi compute cluster. Key aspects included articulation and movement to demonstrate cascade algorithms across the cluster. The scale of 256 systems was a major goal and Kirk vowed to ask NSF for the funding. Sam also suggested seed funding from the newly formed VT Institute for Creative Arts and Technologies.
2013-2018: With the help of seed grants from VT ICAT and Cameron’s stack@cs Center for Computer Systems in summer 2013, by September 2013, we had secured $150k from NSF (Award #1355955) to fully fund development of the 256-node kinetic computer. Lil’ SeeMore (the 30-node prototype) was completed and first exhibited in April 2014 in the Moss Center of Virginia Tech. SeeMore (the 256-node system) came online in October and was first exhibited at SIGGRAPH 2014 in Vancouver, B.C. Since then, the pair of systems have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people of all ages from New Orleans, LA for the Supercomputing 2014 Conference, to New York, NY for the 2015 International Maker’s Faire, to Austin, TX for SXSW 2016, and to Washington D.C. for the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival as the invited centerpiece of the NSF exhibit. In addition to numerous accolades and editor’s choice awards over the years, SeeMore was rated the #2 Raspberry Pi Project of All Time by MagPi Magazine.