Autocomplete poetry

Raspberry Pi integrated into the world of art. I hadn’t come across much of this before, and I like it a lot. As a self-proclaimed ‘artist of stuff’, it’s always exciting to see something arty that calls to the maker inside. With Glaciers, NYC-based Zach Gage has achieved exactly that.

Glaciers was an art instillation that, like the landforms from which it takes its name, slowly developed over time. I say ‘was’, but with each of its constituent pieces still running and a majority already sold, Glaciers continues indefinitely. Using forty Raspberry Pis attached to forty plainly presented Adafruit e-ink screens, Gage used Google Search’s auto-complete function to create poetry.


We’ve all noticed occasional funny or poignant results of the way Google tries to complete your search query for you based on the vast amount of data that passes through its search engine daily. Gage has programmed the Raspberry Pis to select the top three suggestions that follow various chosen phrases and display them on the screens. The results are striking, often moving, and usually something that most people would acknowledge as poetry, or at least poetic.

The screens refresh daily as the Pis check Google for changes and update accordingly. For some search phrases, the autocompletions can change daily; for others, it could take years. A poem you’ve had upon your wall for months on end could suddenly change unexpectedly, updating to reflect the evolving trends of user queries on the internet.

“The best paintings you can look at a thousand times and you keep seeing new things.” – Zach Gage

Glaciers is certainly an intriguing installation, with pithy observations of the vulnerability of anonymous internet users in pieces such as:


and the (somewhat) more light-hearted:


Zach Gage is an indie video game creator, responsible for titles such as SpellTower and the somewhat fear-inducing Lose/Lose (Space Invaders meets permanent file deletion with some 17000 files already lost to the game since launch). He’s previously used Raspberry Pis in other projects, such as his Twitter-fuelled best day ever and Fortune. I bet this isn’t the last time he does something fabulous with a Pi.


Lorna avatar

Love this! But seriously, who’s scared of toasters?

AndrewS avatar


BenV avatar

Someone traumatized by a Jack-in-the-Box toy?

Graeme Porter avatar

Cats. Cats are scared of toasters.

They don’t like printers much either, but neither do I (I work in IT support…)

Brian MacLeod avatar

People who have tried to push a too thick slice further down…

Don’t ask. :)

Alex Enkerli avatar

Sure is inspiring, as so many RasPi projects are.
Those e-ink displays could be used for so many things. We often see projects with monochrome LED displays, but these are more “expressive”, in some ways.

Jason avatar

Neat. This is like the Internet hive mind come to life. Just wondering though if those lines are actual complete search terms eg. “i’m scared of losing you” or is the program adlibbing based on some context or simply just joining segments together like “i’m scared” + “losing you” to fit the poetic format.

ignaloidas avatar

now it would be
i am scared of hell
i am scared of my mom
i am scared of terorism
that’s preety interesting, right?

JBeale avatar

That is a neat project. About toasters, maybe more people should be afraid of them. Not sure if its reliable, but “It is estimated that over 700 people worldwide are killed each year as a result of toaster fires and electrocutions.” (from )

David avatar

And we should be afraid of our bedding – 913 deaths in the US alone from unsupervised bedding:;jsessionid=A8E1EC2B6658715F959A2261D4875111

I am fine with my toaster. Bits of it are plastic, though, so only as long as these guys stay away:

GaryW avatar

This might be art, but it certainly isn’t poetry.

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