For its autumn campaign, denim brand Levi’s worked with digital agency AKQA to create “The Makers Tools”, a set of vintage creative objects hacked to function as modern-day social media devices, including a 'Twitter Typewriter'.
Image: A 1901 Underwood No. 5 transformed into a 'Twitter Typewriter'
For the project, which is part of the #MakeOurMark campaign, Levi’s teamed up with AKQA, creative technologist Stephen Hadinger, as well as New York’s Fake Love and creative technologists Matthew Epler and Mark Kleback.
The Makers Tools combine elements of the past with contemporary digital culture and include a 1953 Bolex B-8 Video Camera linked to Instagram, 1939 Graflex Speed Graphic Camera that posts to Instagram, a 1901 Underwood No. 5 Typewriter that posts to Twitter and a 1953 Gibson ES-125 Guitar linked to Soundcloud.
“It was a challenging project that relied heavily on the many skill sets of an amazing team,” says Matthew Epler, who designed the look of the interfaces and come up with strategies for translating the digital interfaces of Twitter, Instagram, and SoundCloud to the physical world.
The tools were also part of “Station to Station”, a public art project – literally on the tracks - supported and in collaboration with Levi’s. A train converted into a collaborative art studio set off from New York over three weeks in September making ten stops over three weeks, culminating in San Francisco.
Image: 1953 Bolex B-8 Video Camera is hacked to post on Instagram. Courtesy of Brandon Shigeta/Hypebeast
Image: Courtesy of Brandon Shigeta/Hypebeast
Each device needed to communicate with the web and relied on a combination of many new technologies, including the Rasperry Pi camera module. For youtechnology enthusiasts out there, Mark Kleback explains in detail:
“We chose the Raspberry Pi as the brain inside each object. For the cameras, we used the Raspberry Pi camera module and programmed everything in Python. Each device had a built-in WIFI module, and we used mobile hot spots to communicate with the web as the train travelled across the country.
“Since the devices used specific social media platforms, we used RFID bracelets to allow the artists and musicians on the train to log in to their own accounts. Each device is outfitted with an RFID reader, and a custom-made emblem that identifies whether or not the user is logged in or not.
“The peripherals for each device were controlled through an AtMega328 chip, and we had custom PCB boards fabricated for each device with this chip on board. The custom boards also allowed us to run any additional peripherals like buttons and LED lights. These attached to the Raspberry Pi via the GPIO pins.
“The typewriter used Nixie tubes to display a three-digit readout. This counts down the characters remaining on a twitter post. We used the circuitry from the ArduiNix shield to design the typewriter board.
“The guitar's RFID reader is tethered to a Mac Mini using Bluetooth. The Mac Mini is running a recording patch in Max/MSP and Ableton Live, using an Arduino as the recording input inside of a custom-made guitar pedal.
“The video camera, posting to Instagram video, used two digital numeric displays to countdown from 15 seconds. The user was able to record snippets of video that totaled 15 seconds, or simply record a straight 15 second video.
“We used an OLED Screen to scroll [the "Who are you?"] question, prompting the user to answer it as they interacted with the device. Both cameras are outfitted with filter selectors so the user can choose one of six styles before they shoot their photo. These are applied before the photos post to Instagram using a service called Blitline.”
Image: 1939 Graflex Speed Graphic Camera is revamped into an 'Instagram Still Cam'
Image: 1953 Gibson ES-125 becomes 'Soundcloud Guitar'
Video: Levi’s “The Makers Tools” by AKQA and Fake Love
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