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The Swirl Machine

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“The Swirl Machine is an interactive, digital-meets-the-real-world machine that swirls Santa Maria Valley wine and turns it into a digital piece of art,” say the team from KPS3, the marketing agency behind The Swirl Machine.

“It was created and developed by KPS3 for Visit Santa Maria Valley. The machine allows users to select their ‘Fill Level’ and ‘Swirl Speed’. In real-time, the user can watch the glass fill, swirl, and splash the wine onto a piece of paper, creating an original Santa Maria-style spill artwork. Every swirl and spill will be unique to each individual user” say Rob Gaedtke and Jonathan Rutheiser of its marketing agency KPS3.

It’s a bit like a Rube Goldberg device, albeit without the Powerhouse music playing. The result of your swirl is sent to you as a photo, and there’s even a fun personality result that comes with it.

Raspberry Pi takes photos of the finished swirl. You can also replay the swirl in action on The Swirl Machine website

“The idea came on a car ride to Santa Maria Valley,” Rob and Jonathan explain. “The team was playing around with the idea of capturing slow-motion swirls, which led to how interesting wine spills are, and that led to The Swirl Machine. The fact that it was a spill fit perfectly into the vibe of Santa Maria Valley’s wine experience… if you spill a little, no one really cares. And because of who KPS3 is as a company, it clearly had to push technical boundaries.” (KPS3 is an integrated marketing agency that works with companies across the globe to find insights in data and bring them to life.)

Making a splash

At the time of writing, there were around 2000 ‘swirls’ on The Swirl Machine’s website – a machine been made possible thanks to a Raspberry Pi.

More than 2000 people have used The Swirl Machine to create their own wine-derived splash in the art world

“We like Raspberry Pi because it has a very low barrier to entry,” the KPS team says. “For only $35 you get a fully functioning computer with I/O capabilities. The community behind Raspberry Pi is also active and helpful, which means you get software packages that are thoroughly tested and you never spend too much time figuring out solutions to problems.

KPS3 has used Raspberry Pi on many different projects in the past. This includes powering a media server, emulator, live‑streaming client, or The Swirl Machine. They use Raspberry Pi because “it’s more than powerful enough to handle the tasks we’ve thrown at it.”

The machine uses a number of technologies. The website is hosted in AWS (Amazon Web Service). A robot arm grabs paper and moves it along the swirl production line. Arduinos control the wine glass, and a spinning plate swirls the glass. Each piece of wine art is unique, including the corner splash that we managed to make during our go with it.

A robot arm grabs paper and moves it along the swirl production line. Arduinos control the wine glass, and a spinning plate swirls the glass.

Warning: Spinning glass

If you choose to recreate this project, please fix glass on a spinning turntable carefully (and at your own risk).

Swirl your style

1. To make your own wine swirls first select how full the wine glass is. This tells the pump how much wine to dispense into the glass. You can also choose the amount of ‘swirl’ for your glass, which sets a target speed for the spinning wine plate.

Use the slider to indicate how full the wine glass is

2. A gripper arm with an air-compressor-powered suction cup grabs your piece of special paper. It brings it to the paper holder, where the paper is then moved into position. Wine is dispensed, the glass is spun, and art happens.

A gripper arm grabs and positions the paper before wine is dispensed, the glass is spun and art happens.

3. A camera records the footage of the swirl, and a different camera takes a picture of the final piece. As the wet paper isn’t perfectly straight, the image is processed to make it look perfect before being shared with the creator.

A Raspberry Pi camera photographs the wine-spattered page once video footage of the swirl has been completed. The image is straightened and then carefully processed before its creator is shown the final piece.

Quick facts

  • The video of a user’s swirl can be replayed

  • The Swirl-nalysis takes into account the final art and your settings

  • The queue lets you watch the swirls ahead of you

  • More than 1600 people have created about 2000 swirls

  • Art is very cool, however you make it

The wine glass spins on a turntable, creating unique splatter art

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