While millions of folks over the holidays were adorning the insides and outs of their homes with dazzling lights, one Maker was looking to do something a little different.
Maker Hunter Scott recently decided to bury a strip of RGB LEDs in the snow to illuminate the current mood of his city by conducting a sentiment analysis on all tweets within a 15-mile radius.
In order to make this happen, Scott connected an Atmel based Arduino to the Internet using an Ethernet shield, which was tasked with monitoring all the latest tweets from his defined area. The tweets were then sent to the Alchemy Sentiment API for analysis and plotted accordingly. The API uses various algorithms and detection mechanisms to identify positive/negative sentiment within any document or web page.
“Obviously the thing that’s really plotted is not the emotions of the entire city, but of the people who are tweeting. But it’s still interesting and given that I live in the suburbs that are full of high school students, maybe it’s accurate after all (especially if their mood affects their parents). And obviously tweeting about negative or positive things doesn’t directly mean that people are happy or sad or angry, but it’s at least loosely coupled to that, and besides, this is an art project, so give me a break,” the Maker writes.
Given that the sentiment range wasn’t that big, Scott decided to plot the change in sentiment since the last sample, rather than the overall average. This ended up looking much better, with a more obvious fluctuation to the LED display.
“I thought about plotting other things as well, like temperature or something. I also thought about taking advantage of the fact that lots of people would see it as they drove by, but no one would know what it meant, so I could put something really personal on it like my current bank balance or my last transaction. But I ended up picking sentiment analysis because I thought it would be interesting.”
Scott reveals that the snow was excellent at diffusing the light. By concealing the LED strip under 2”-5” of snow, he was able subtly hide the electronics while blurring the lights just enough to achieve his desired effect.
Those interested in learning more can read up on the entire build here, and watch his holiday spectacle above. Meanwhile, you may also want to check out another interactive installation that literally painted the mood of a city using social media feeds as an input.