Goldsmiths hackathon looms large in BBC1 show on London’s tech pioneers


A creative hackathon run by Goldsmiths Computing students forms the backbone of a new BBC1 documentary, which screened on Friday 23 June 2017.

The 30-minute programme ‘Invented in London’ uncovers London’s technology pioneers of the past, present and future – with a focus on Anvil Hack III, a Spotify-sponsored hackathon organised by student tech group Hacksmiths.

GoldsmithsThe 2-day Anvil Hack III took place on campus this April, focussing on the creative applications of technology. Supported by Goldsmiths Annual fund, it challenged participants to use their skills “to make something wonderful, arty, musical – anything you build will be awesome.”

Participants competed for a range of prizes including best audio hack (make something interesting using sound), best hardware hack, best visual hack (make a cool project showcasing awesome visuals), as well as best projects using Spotify, Twilio and Autodesk.

The rest of the BBC documentary featured profiles of Deliveroo, computing pioneer Ada Lovelace, an AI personal assistant and an artist who’d hacked a hearing aid to sonify wi-fi coverage.

Physical Computing projects, Spring 2017

Here is a selection of recent projects from our third year Physical Computing module, taught by Phoenix Perry and Perla Maiolino. 

The projects – which were developed in the department’s new hack labs in St James Hatcham Building – include toys, games, controllers, musical devices, and lots of robots.

Flight Control System
by Jacky Wang

Roll Game
by Andrea Fiorucci

Once upon a Time: The Seasons
by Elliot Brown & Sapphira Abayomi. Once Upon a Time site

Drum Machine with Arduino Mega
by Hamood Abdul Jabbar and Gabriel Oliveira Valencia. Project site

Fortune Telling Robot
by Sam Arshed. Robot website

Arduino Tee: a vest with electric shock pads
by Kamaldeep Singh Bachus and Umar Yunus. Tee site

Pendulum: midi controller for a max filter with a pendulum accelerometer
by Harrison Bamford. Pendulum website

Auduino: breath-powered musical instrument
by Saskia Burczak & Mohsin Yusuf. Auduino blog

Electromagnetic String Instrument
by Cameron Thomas

Electromagnetic String Instrument from Cameron Thomas on Vimeo.

Omnimac wheeled robot
by Cormac Joyce. Omnimac website

by Eliot Heath

Arduino Synth
by George Sullivan

by Tom Holmes

by Gil Hakemi.
Project blog

Alarm System
by Osian Jarvis

Street Fighter Joystick Controller
Justin King

Vibrating Diamonds
Qian Joo Lim. Diamonds blog

Ladybird Robot
by Michael King

Report from Goldsmiths’ Sex Tech Hackathon


Back in December 2016, student society Hacksmiths teamed up with Goldsmiths’ Dr Kate Devlin to run the first ever Sex Tech Hackathon.  In this blog post, Creative Computing student Kevin Lewis reports what happened.

Kevin Lewis

Kevin Lewis

Hackathons are invention marathons – where attendees build creative solutions to a challenge set by organisers. One of our tutors, Dr Kate Devlin, wanted to run a hackathon around her area of research – artificial sexuality and the ethics of artificial intelligence – and we couldn’t wait to jump in and help.

Running creative events is not new to Hacksmiths (Goldsmiths’ student-run tech society). Every year we run several large hackathons, but this felt different. We had an exceptional group of attendees from a much wider range of backgrounds than ever before at something we’ve run, and with it came a range of experiences and viewpoints which made the projects at Sex Tech Hack all unique and valuable in their own ways.

Bop It

One team converted children’s toy ‘Bop It’ into a remote control for smart sex toys

For two days we had over 50 talented developers, designers and industry experts join us in St James Hatcham to build innovative new sex technology.

Only in Goldsmiths would you assemble a group of individuals so awesome that they create a combined 14 projects which are so different from one another.

From our very own Dr Sarah Wiseman building a physical computing project to improve communication between partners around kinks, to a group of students with a 3D-printed fist whose vibration intensity changes based on historical data from multinational finance company Goldman Sachs.

No, really, we saw it all – generative erotica, beat-controlled vibrators and a cryptocurrency based on ‘pleasing’ the network. We had quite a few prizes, but the overall best was awarded by our panel of judges to Lovepad – a soft robot specifically designed for non-binary users. The hackers mixed their own silicon in the church over the weekend and it was the more weird and wonderful thing we could have had.

We’ll be running this event again towards the end of 2017 – we want to make it even bigger and better than last time (not that size matters in the slightest). If you want to register for updates, head over to

Artist Memo Akten inspires Computational Arts students

Blogpost by Theo Papatheodorou, programme leader of MA/MFA in Computational Arts.

MA/MFA in Computational Arts students got a real treat on 23 January when renowned computational artist Memo Akten visited the MA to run a crit session and discuss his work and process.

When Memo first came in, he discussed his role in the openFrameworks community. The students in the Workshops in Creative Coding class on the MA are using openFrameworks to make interactive audiovisual applications using computer vision, machine learning, networking protocols, sensors and a lot more. Memo’s contribution to openFrameworks is great and it was really enjoyable listening him talk about his involvement.

We then went through 15 of the best end-of-term project assignments and Memo gave feedback, ideas and critiqued the work for the benefit of the students.

The highlight of the session came later when Memo gave a talk about his work. It wasn’t a typical talk listing his contributions and achievements (among other things the Golden Nica at Ars Electronica). He hopped between selected projects highlighting a common thread: how ideas are formed, how he picks tools, collaborators and how he (occasionally) pitches ideas to clients.

Some nuggets of wisdom from his talk:

  • On learning new technologies: Give yourself a project and a deadline. Working with tight deadlines enhances the creative process, increases the motivation and facilitates learning.
  • On forming new ideas: He often hacks away on a small thing late at night. This small thing might be just an experiment, a proof-of-concept or a study of a topic that fascinates him. For example, he started investigating and playing with the theme of harmonic motion. The work that started as a humble Processing sketch became an audiovisual installation, a 360-immersive projection, a live performance using 16 percussionists and ultimately a light show outside the Blenheim Palace. See the video below for its manifestation outside the palace.
  • On pitching ideas: Keep a (somewhat) organised file with your ideas. If you do develop something, blog about it, make a how-to video, share your code and your idea with the world. When you’re approached for a commission look over the stack of ideas and scale one up for a project. Don’t get too attached to your ideas. Be ready to throw away one that is not so fresh any more.

Memo is currently completing his PhD in A.I. and machine learning for expressive human-machine interaction at Goldsmiths.

This post was originally published on Goldsmiths’ Computational Arts blog.


Computational Arts student builds A.I. orchestra to play Riley’s ‘In C’


More than 50 years after composer Terry Riley created the ever-changing ‘In C’ for an indefinite number of performers, an MFA Computational Arts student from Goldsmiths has designed an artificially intelligent orchestra which will allow musicians to play the piece solo.

Composed in 1964, Riley’s experimental and influential masterpiece consists of 53 short melodic fragments lasting from half a beat to 32 beats, with each phrase repeated an arbitrary number of times.

It has been performed with 11 musicians or up to 124, with each performer having control over which phrase they play and when. The piece also has no set running time – it could last 15 minutes or for hours.

With ‘In C++’ Gregory White has created a series of independent virtual performers who make their own decisions about which notes to play, when to progress to the next bar, whether to play hard or soft, and so on, through a form of artificial intelligence.

Each performer is aware of the others, correcting themselves if they start to lag behind or rush ahead in order to ensure what they play compliments the rest of the ensemble.

The program Gregory has written produces MIDI (digital) notes which are then sent to hardware instruments (physical digital instruments), software instruments, or any other MIDI controlled device – potentially including lights. He’s so far trialled it with chimes, a more droney version with heavy reverb, and a percussion-only virtual orchestra.

The artist explains: “I decided to choose the piece ‘In C’ for my MFA Computational Arts project for a number of reasons, but primarily because when performing Riley’s work, I realised that my thought process was rather algorithmic.

“I had 53 cells of information, each I would repeatedly execute until I decided that I had passed a certain threshold – at which point I would progress to the next cell. When all cells had been played, I would repeat the last until I decided to stop performing, or ‘terminate the program’.

“I thought it would be interesting to take the ensemble element out of the piece, and see how it could change, or what new ideas could be explored, when the decisions about which pitches to play were taken care of.

“What is the human performer’s role? They could perform with an instrument alongside the machine; they could act as a conductor, influencing volume, pattern changes, the texture of the piece, the timbre of each performer, effects processing, and so on. And how is one person’s interpretation of the piece different to an ensemble’s?”

“Plus, I just really, really, wanted to do this project so I could make the C++ pun.”


About the artist
Gregory White’s fine art practice includes photography, filmmaking, sound design, creative coding, and human-computer interaction, as he believes that each informs the other.

He attended the University of East Anglia, and received a Bachelor’s degree in Music Technology with a specialisation in Sonic Arts. Currently Greg (@gregwht) is working as a freelance video editor, photographer, and general sound guy, while studying MA Computational Arts part-time at Goldsmiths.

Gregory White’s ‘In C++’ will be on display at METASIS, the Goldsmiths, University of London MA and MFA Computational Arts show from 8-11 September.


This article, written by Sarah Cox, was first published in Goldsmiths News


Queens of Tech: Talks by inspiring c♀mputer scientists


15% of Goldsmiths Computing students are women. Although that’s double the national average for university computing departments, it’s nowhere near good enough. So we’re aiming for 50%. 

Join us for Goldsmiths’ new Women in Computing speaker series. These remarkable computer scientists will talk about their work – and inspire you to be part of the next generation of amazing women in tech.

Thurs 16 June: Dr Kate Devlin _ My Life with the Sex Robots


Dr Kate Devlin is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London. This evening she gives a lively overview of her career and her current research on sexual companion robots.

Kate has a background in both archaeology and computer science and has combined these with applied perception, focusing on digital cultural heritage. She is an active campaigner for mental health awareness and also for raising the profile of women in computing.

Where: Room 342, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths
When: 6:30 – 8pm Thursday 16 June 2016
Book your free ticket

Thurs 23 June: Susan Stepney _ Can slime mould compute?

If you have a PC, tablet, or smartphone, you have used a computer. But some people use billard balls, beams of light, sticks of wood, chemicals, bacteria, slime moulds, spaghetti, even black holes, as computers (although some of these only in theory!).

How can these things be computers? What can we do? Can they do things your smartphone can’t? And why are these people using such peculoar things to compute with, anyway?

Susan Stepney is Professor of Computer Science at the University of York, Department of Computer Science. In this informal lecture, she discusses her career and research in non-standard computation, biologically-inspired computational models, and emergent systems.

Where: Room 342, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths
When: 6:30 – 8pm Thursday 23 June 2016
Book your free ticket

Thurs 30 June: Vinoba Vinayagamoorthy _ Inventing the TV of the future


Vinoba is an R&D Engineer for the BBC, working within Broadcast & Connected Systems. She thinks up new types of synchronised companion screen experiences for connected homes. Currently, this ranges from building prototypes for new & archived content to running exploratory studies to gauge how our audiences might react to them.

Previously, Vinoba Vinayagamoorthy focused on building prototypes that combine content on social networks with programmes being played on a connected TV.

Where: Room 342, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths
When: 6:30 – 8pm Thursday 30 June 2016
Book your free ticket

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