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Art Bytes: 14 projects from the second Walters Art Museum hackathon

Five different teams were declared winners and received $1,000 in prize money each.

Hackers in the statue court of the Walters Art Museum on the final day of Art Bytes 2014. (Photo by Andrew Zaleski)

If hackathons are only as relevant as the weekends they take place, Art Bytes was atypical, and not just because participants worked all weekend from the sculpture court just inside the Charles Street entrance of the Walters Art Museum.
Many of the 14 projects to come out of the second Art Bytes event were made possible because of the first Walters hackathon, in July 2012, when a crude, introductory version of what is now the museum’s own API was thrown together. Unveiled earlier this month, the new Walters Art Museum’s API allows “developers and software programmers to query data from the museum, whose Internet repository contains more than 10,000 digital records of art and artifacts from the museum’s collection.”
It was that database of records that allowed teams of developers, who started work inside the Walters on Friday night, to program a variety of mobile and web apps. Five different teams were declared winners and received $1,000 in prize money each.
Below are the five winners followed by the other nine projects from the second Art Bytes hackathon.

  • QR Code Accessible Video Tour Library: A mobile tool that uses QR codes to activate videos about the art in the museum. It’s indexed with the Walters API, but is hosted publicly on the Walters YouTube channel so anyone can watch the videos. Each video has an expert talking about a specific work of art and includes close-ups of each piece of art. This project was led by George L Peters Jr.

  • Get Public: Inspired by the Walters’ online catalog of artworks, Get Public is a database of public art and monuments found around Baltimore city. Early versions of the database are here and here.
  • ArtLies: Built by the cofounders of Back Forty, Flip Sasser and Ed Schmalzle, Art Lies is an iPhone game based on the game two truths and a lie. Five-question quizzes feature art and information pulled randomly from the Walters’ API. Each question gives players three pieces of information about the artwork shown, and the object for users is to pick the piece of false information. ArtLies will be available on the app store shortly. Sasser and Schmalzle are just waiting for Apple’s approval.
  • ArtMemePut together by 410 Labs‘ Jonathan Julian, ArtMeme is a web app and Twitter bot that uses the Doge meme to describe different works of art inside the Walters. It’s an imperfect system, as some people might tweet the @ArtMeme14 bot asking for a piece of artwork with trees only to be shown a random image of a statue. Amaze.
  • Walters Bot: Two Twitter bots: @WaltersBot mimics viral headlines while reproducing links to images of art inside the Walters museum, while and @WaltersStatuary shares links to images of statues whenever someone tweets Statue of Limitations when they really mean to tweet Statute of Limitations.
  • The Time Lords built the Time Traveller’s Ticking Tock, an interactive, photo-based scavenger hunt. The premise: There’s a time machine that’s broken down and Walters visitors have to go find and take photos of pieces throughout the museum to help fix it.

Sasser and Schmalzle presenting their ArtLies app.

  • George Crowdsourcington: This team cut up a digital model of the Walters museum’s bust of George Washington into 110 pieces and tagged each piece with coordinates. An accompanying website allows people to download the file to 3D print a specific piece and provides an address to where that piece should then be mailed. The hope is that when the team receives all 110 pieces — most of them 3D printed by other people in Baltimore city — it can assemble a 3D-printed replica of the George Washington bust that’s exactly to scale.
  • The Walters Explorers is a live, online multiplayer game that takes the floor plan of the Walters and puts it into a mobile game. A chat screen at the bottom allows players to talk to other people, who are identifiable by tiny avatars on the floor plan. Players are able to see what others are viewing inside the Walters, and the more they interact with others, the more photos of artwork they see and the more points they collect.
  • Walters Social Sharing is an app that lets you share photos of art across social networks. Into the app users plug in the art identifier number found on each piece of art on display at the Walters Art Museum. The mobile and web app uses the museum’s API to then provide info about the artwork, which can then be shared on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
  • The Manuscripters developed a new website for sifting through 300 (of more than 900) manuscripts that have already been digitized by the museum. Instead of searching through a long, almost indecipherable listing of manuscripts, people can now check off boxes that refine manuscript searches by date, geography, subject, culture and more.
  • The E-book Project complements what the Manuscripters developed. The digitized manuscripts the Walters currently hosts here are viewable, but only page by page, which are scanned and uploaded individually. This team built a system that will create e-books for the iPad and the Kindle that takes the images from the digital Walters website and puts them into books that people scroll through, saving the time spent clicking on each image to pull up a new page.
  • Digital Docent: A mobile app that senses how close people are to objects in the museum, and then automatically plays an audio file describing the piece of artwork. The audio tour numbers are already provided by the Walters. This app simply allows people to take a location-activated audio tour of the museum using their iPhone as the guide.
  • Team Scantasia: Owings Mills-based 3D modeling and scanning firm Direct Dimensions brought nearly $300,000 worth of equipment to the Walters over Art Bytes weekend to take 3D scans of a handful of artworks. (The company did the 3D scan of the George Washington bust that team George Crowdsourcington used.) It’s the start of a new, longer term project by Direct Dimensions: the company plans to help the Walters put three-dimensional, interactive information about its artwork onto its website.

Michael Raphael, CEO and president of Direct Dimsenions, explains the 3D scanning work his company was doing over the weekend.

  • Eagle Eye was the one project intended for employees of the museum. It’s a heat map of foot traffic inside the Walters to show the management where museum visitors spend more time while touring the museum.
Companies: Back Forty / Direct Dimensions / Walters Art Museum

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