Syyn Labs

OK Go’s Upside Down and Inside Out Latest Music Video

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Fun fact for my new friends! A company I cofounded in 2009 with a few of my buddies (which we later sold in 2012) was called Syyn Labs​ . Our claim to fame was that we made the Rube Goldberg Machine music video for OK Go 6 years ago. How time flies 🙂 The video is now at 50m+ views on YouTube! Now the band has released their latest video called “Upside Down and Inside Out” and it’s yet another masterpiece of lunacy! Good job guys. And if you’re one of the few people who HASN’T seen the RGM machine video, here’s the link to that one.  STILL A CLASSIC!

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Syyner Eric Gradman Gets Kinect’d

Prolific Maker and Syyner Eric Gradman got his hands on a Kinect CV unit and within hours was “making art”, as he calls it. I always smile when Syyn Labs creators say that sort of thing. As another Syyner Dan Busby once said: “Some of us were trained in art formally, but the rest of us had to learn it on the streets…”. With a history of robotics and computer vision (not to mention fire spinning, circus performing, and professional whistling) Eric has quickly learned the joy of ‘making art’.

Describing one his first custom Kinect project, Illuminous, Eric says: “Remember that scene at the end of the matrix where glowing green symbols traced across an agent’s body? Well, this is just like that, but in realtime. What you’re looking at here is a particle system, where YOU are the source of the particles. Particles (seen on screen as dots) spring into being on the surface of your body. They then traverse the contours of your body until they reach an edge, at which point they’re flung into space and disappear. All this is possible because the Kinect lets me reconstruct the 3d geometry of whatever it sees.” More details here…

The Kinect also adds a new way of interacting with old projects: “Standard Gravity is an existing project of mine that until today pure image thresholding to determine where people are standing. I bought a new Kinect sensor this afternoon, and immediately set about adapting this code to use the new sensor.” More details here…

What will Eric come up with next? Keep in touch with him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/egradman and the rest of the Syyn crew at http://twitter.com/syynlabs.

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Science Meets Design Under the Manhattan Bridge

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If the 20s were all about parties, the 30s are so far all about soirées. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good hedonistic gathering, devoid of anything other than youthful celebration, but as I enter the second year of my 30s I crave a little more substantive return on my time and energy expenditure.

Enter the soirée. More than just a motley mish-mash of bobbing heads and grinding bodies, I’ve begun to take pride in organizing, smaller, more intimate gatherings. Whether it’s bringing together a few people that you think should meet, or creating a focused theme, it brings me great excitement to consider all of the possible serendipity that can emerge from the unpredictable encounters.

And so, as is customary on my NYC trips, I planned to organize a little soirée. This time I wanted to focus on making some good east coast connections for Syyn Labs, and so my favorite social roboticist and fellow Syyner, Heather Knight, introduced me to a Canadian data viz expert called Jer Thorpe. Jer is in town for a few months on business and rents a large, beautiful loft in Dumbo. More importantly he is a social character and was more than happy to host an informal, Sunday night soirée themed around ‘Science Meets Design’.

With only a day or two notice, we collectively invited around 20 interesting characters for cheese and wine at Jer’s warehouse space. As we entered the building, 4 people covered in paint exploded through the door, yelling “Paint fight on the roof!”. We slid past the dripping nut cases and deeper into the building, down corridors that faintly smelled like garbage while admiring the rugged, not-quite-legal charm that only a gritty warehouse like this can possess.

Jer led us into his loft which had an unparalleled view of the east river, and as people gathered, there were more than a few people who no one knew.

“Kevin invited us!” They said and then as an answer to our confused look: “You know, Kevin Balktick from unit 500. This is his place, right?”

And so it seemed like they’d ended up in the wrong place but as it turned out, the next door neighbor was having a party too. And guess what, it was a bunch of event engineers and creative types celebrating a recent project called the Lost Horizon Night Market that included installations inside a bunch of parked box cars. So we just opened our doors and combined our parties and everyone left with a whole bunch of new friends.

Aaah, the joy of the unpredictable, alive and well in NYC!

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Syyn Labs Presents: A Night of Syyn

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Syyn Labs invites you to join us at our new warehouse space near downtown LA for a night of interactive art, DJs and VJs. We’ll be going from 9pm until late – drinks provided. More details at http://syyn.eventbrite.com.


$10-$15 RSVP here… // ABSOLUTELY NO TICKETS AT THE DOOR // REGISTRATION REVEALS LOCATION



Invite your friends via our Facebook event and we hope to see you here on the 6th!

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Mixing Up Bizarre Binaries at Syyn Labs

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A home made glowing liquid. Not safe to drink. At all.

So people often cock their heads and ask “So, what exactly is Syyn Labs?”. Besides the odd spelling the entire organization is odd, and by ‘odd’, I mean quite unprecedented. Hence it is often challenging for outsiders to categorize. In fact, it’s even hard for insiders to categorize, but as the as the Founder and Cruise Director it’s my job to define our mission and to lead us to prosperous new territory. So let me give it a shot:

Syyn Labs is a magical place, full of strange beings who seemed to have been extruded through a character mash-up machine. It’s a land where scientists believe they’re artists, where artists suddenly have the skills or programming and where engineers debate on design philosophy. But this was no random manifestation. Years prior to moving to LA, back in 2002 at Rhode Island School of Design, with impotent foam models of supposed high tech products, I had seen my own short comings clearly. “I wish I had my own R&D group” was my lame retort, as my glued-on buttons fell off in the middle of my project review.

And so, born in the abundant serendiptity of the monthly Mindshare LA, Syyn Labs (ne: Mindshare Labs), began as an informal gathering of creative, but technically gifted characters. Each area of expertise began to be filled, coding, hacking, construction, engineering, applied physics – the team’s technical skills far surpassed anything I could have ever dreamt up and as I led the group in design style brainstorming sessions, the excitement was palpable. Soon I even brought an old RISD friend into the mix, to help me balance things out.

Again, while I’m aware of what I’m good at, I’m also keenly aware of what I’m not good at. In fact, knowing what I’m not good at is one of the things I’m best at. And so, in mid 2009, seeing the limitations of both my time and business experience, I brought in the venerable Adam Sadowsky to lead the charge in turning Syyn Labs into a real business. After officially incorporating Syyn Labs, LLC, and proving his logistical might during early 2010’s OK Go RGM success, Adam has lead the team into profitability and helped attract and win projects that ultimately have allowed us to move into an exciting new home 🙂

And as we define our path, we all know that this is just the start of the fun, and a preview of what we’re capable of. As for defining our mission: Are we educating the public, or playing with them? Are we creating art, or showcasing science? Are we a bunch of friends having fun, or employees in a profitable business? Well, who’s to say that we can’t be doing all of them at the same time?

Read more about the team here…

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A big day of shooting for a client at the new Syyn Labs HQ.

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Meeting at the New Syyn HQ

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It’s not clean, it’s not too pretty but it’s OURS! With a new wall up, and tool and couches being moved in, we are now holding our meetings in the brand new Syyn Labs HQ! We’re officially ready to begin our first project next week for [redacted] who wants to make a video to bring attention to their new [redacted] project! (Sorry to be elusive, more on that in the coming month or two…) It should be a good video – and even more exciting is that it’s paying us hourly, as well as paying our rent! One humorous fact is that for the last five years I’d lived a couple of blocks away from this warehouse but as of a couple of weeks ago I moved to Pasadena! I guess there rally is no chance for a walkable commute in Los Angeles.

We’ve power washed the floors a few times and they’re still pretty filthy, but at least most of the spilled paint came up. While some of us might be resigned to a life of dusty floors and remnants of the paint factory’s spills, Dan Busby, never to shirk away from work, has announced the floors as his official ‘white whale’. He will not rest until they are spic and span and sealed with epoxy.

Characters like Dan are why Syyn Labs is more than just a drinking club with big ideas 🙂

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Moving in to the New Syyn Labs Space

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EXCITING NEWS! Syyn Labs has officially moved in to a new space at the newest (and largest) creative collective space in LA: Big Art Labs! Just down the street from the brewery Big Art is already home to some of the cities most creative performers, fire spinners and musicians – and now Syyn abs is bringing the tech wizardry and party experience!

But first, this being an old paint factory, it’s time to clean this mess up!

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And of course get some walls built and maybe a little mopping! Big things to come 🙂

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Syyn Labs DNA Sequencer at Santa Monica GLOW Festival



Syyn Labs had the pleasure of installing a new piece at the Santa Monica GLOW Festival this past Saturday – a beautiful, 100-foot-long double helix of colorful, synced lights.

There was over a man-year (more than 2000 combined hours) put into this project which used sophisticated custom software designed by our own David Guttman to control 512 computer controlled full-color LED’s, 32 LED controllers, 4 Arduinos, and 4 computers, with over 6000 wire interconnects and well over a mile of wire. This complex hardware configuration was masterminded by Chris Nelson and Eliot Phillips, based on a challenging design concept from the talented Eric Gradman who also developed a good portion of the support structure and final assembly.

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(under construction and LED testing…)

Once operational, it took inputs from the music for beat-matching and/or VU metering, a wireless iPad, and our beautiful 22-button console (also built by Gradman) – sometimes all at once! At the end of the night, our spectacular DJ Matt Davis had not only moved the crowd with his awesome music, but the twin-computer-based system be designed had processed and sent 53,477 beats to our tempo-synced light sculpture between 7:30 and 2am, when the excited crowd got a little “too excited”, and we were asked to leave the music off until we shut down on schedule an hour later.

We’re REALLY proud of how well received it was. Our favorite part? When our DJ would occasionally let a song end in silence, and it would be met with thunderous applause and cheers from the crowd surrounding the piece – sometimes as many as 7 people deep on both sides!

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(Being installed at the trellis on Santa Monica beach)

We’re planning to release a high-quality video, including a time-lapse of the build and operations. Until then, enjoy some of the videos that others took and posted online – mostly from the dramatic lengthwise view. A few of our favorites are here, here, and here.

Project leads Gradman, Guttman, Nelson and Phillips were supported by a herculean effort by Syyn Labs team members Dan Busby, Doug Campbell, Geoff Emery, Hector Alvarez, “Quin” Cabalquinto, Mat Heitel, Pehr Hovey and Richard Whitney and Sam Leventer, who put in many crazy late nights on this project. A very special thanks to Jennifer Jordan, Sena Koleva, Paul Grasshoff, and Kristy Hilands who pitched in at critical junctures. This really was a team effort.

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Barn Raising at Smash Labs

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Back in LA it was exciting times and Syyn Labs was really beginning to gain momentum. Not only were we working on a fun project that was paying our large crew hourly, but there had been definite progress on finding a new space to call our own. Meeting at Barbara’s Bar at the Brewery had been fun, but as we grew this thing into an actual company – that just wasn’t going to continue to work 🙂

Smash Labs was a local creative space, and was made up of a few groups, including Mutaytor which practiced there and used it as a wood shop. They had found a new space, just a few blocks away from the Brewery artist community (where I was living). In an exciting twist, it seemed like one of the warehouses within this new space (called Big Art Labs) was up for grabs and Syyn had first dibs. In a effort of neighborly love, we helped them move all their crap out of their old space. Of course not without finding some cool props to pose with along the way. Syyners pictured: Dick Whitney, Dan Busby, Jenda Michl, Me, Cousin Gilles d’Amecourt, and Mat Heitel at the bottom.

So it turns we’re just a bunch of characters that enjoy each others company and getting together to work, or create things that don’t yet exist. And maybe along the way we just might get paid, maybe in big bucks, or maybe as in this case, a thick wad of Karma dollars.

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A+D Syynterstitial Party

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The amazingly sustaining part of the Syyn Labs and OK Go RGM music video Collaboration is the continued mileage we are both getting out of it. The video has had over 15m views at this point and from the Syyn Labs angle, we continue to get gigs and have had multiple gallery shows. The most recent, Syynterstitial (Part 1), was a one night, packed Tour de Force, led by none other than my cousin Gilles d’Amecourt. The entire front half of the A+D museum was filled with all sorts of contraptions that were featured in the video, from tiny lego stages to the spinning to the paint blasted suits and even the water glass playing guitar. In the back area, behind a thick black curtain put in place but our tireless supporter Quin, was our interactive artwork showcase: David Guttman’s projection pieces and Eric Gradman’s glowing “Standard Gravity”

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The event attracted over 300 people throughout the evening paying $10 for an evening of live music, free drinks (served by wonderfully sexy bar tenders) and interactive fun. The quality of the people was fantastic, hammering home that between Mindshare and Syyn Labs, I am pretty damn good at creating social filters that attract awesome people – which is the entire reason that I started doing events in the first place, with the first Mindshare back in 2006.

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