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oCat is a real-time tracker for popular cat videos

oCat is a real-time tracker for popular cat videos

Over the last couple of years, cat videos have become the undisputed champions of the web. Whether it’s kittens playing with their shadows to failed jump attempts to giving each another massages, we’re all guilty of watching a few of these clips from time to time (yes, even at work). Built with this in mind, oCat is a real-time tracker for feline-related activity on the Internet.

oCat consists of two parts: the oCat News Distractor and the Kitty o’Cat Twitter bot. Using Google’s YouTube API, the system works by continuously monitoring for new uploads, the number of new views each day, or a specific video that has received a remarkable amount of attention. It then tweets these stats and prints them out on thermal paper, stamping a paw print on the timeline for every 1,000 views.

Created by Annika Engelhardt, a digital media design master’s student at the University of the Arts in Bremen, oCat uses an Arduino along with an ESP Wi-Fi module, a servo, and an LCD screen. The aim of the project is to increase and reveal the amount of hours people spend watching cat videos online.

The cat is an altered Maneki-neko, holding a stamp using welding wire and hot glue. Even though I filled the stamp with extra ink, it did not work properly and I had to cut out the paw-shape from a sponge and glue it onto the original stamp.

The thermal printer used in the device needs a USB connection, so I used a Raspberry Pi to control it. I wrote a Python script that checks four different RSS news feeds for new posts every 15 minutes and prints one headline with a timestamp every minute.

The Twitter bot was programmed using Python and a library called tweepy. Most of the script is reading JSON files, juggling and comparing data and text files and in the end mixing up parts of a sentence to form a tweet. The bot will be enhanced in the future

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Engelhardt exhibited the project at Galerie Flut in Bremen back in October. You can find more pictures and information on the project here.

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