Firewall: Touch-Sensitive Interactive Wall

Artist Aaron Sherwood and Mike Allison stretched a spandex sheet and used it as an interface that people can touch and push into, creating visuals and music with every interaction.

Very cool.


“Pulse of the City” Plays Songs to the Rhythm of your Heartbeat


One of the many fascinating projects displayed at San Fransisco’s Urban Prototyping Festival this year is “Pulse of the City.” Below are excerpts from their website as well as a wonderful article from Nathan Hurst at WIRED:

“The Pulse of the City team incorporated a lot more than one digital element. A heart-shaped sculpture, bigger than a parking meter, made of cardboard and auto body putty, Pulselinked an EKG board to a pair of copper handles to measure the pulse of anyone holding it. Then, with an Arduino, a midi shield, a handful of LEDs, and an XBee radio, it generated a light and music show, and shared pulse information to the web.

‘We programmed an algorithm that takes your heartbeat and makes a unique tempo, drum beat, and melody,’ said George Zisiadis, who created Pulse of the City with Matt Ligon and Rachel McConnell. “It’s the first time people ever have a sense of what they sound like.’

Of course, a portable cardboard structure isn’t quite ready to be a semi-permanent installation on a street corner somewhere. Like all the other projects, Pulse of the City was a prototype. And like the others, it’s open source. ‘We’re not going to travel around the country and install these, but anybody can,’ said Zisiadis, noting that plans for the device would be published on GitHub and Instructables.

In fact, the open-source nature of the projects represents both an opportunity and a risk for their dissemination. While it means that anyone who wishes could follow along and build their own, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will.

‘In terms of spreading, from the outside there’s somewhat of a mentality that open source is kind of magic, and if you put it out there, amazing things happen on their own,’ said Levitas. And while that’s partially true, it still takes outreach to spread the word. Now that the festival is over, GAFFTA plans to meet with each team to discuss how to proceed. Most will begin a crowdfunding campaign of some sort, said Levitas.

‘There’s not really a central node for public design, public technology,’ he said. ‘We hope to become sort of a central resource to that.'” (Nathan Hurst, WIRED)

And from the Pulse of the City UPF site:

“Pulse of the City playfully empowers pedestrians with self-awareness of their heart rates by translating them into unique musical compositions in real-time. It simultaneously streams this heart rate data to the internet for anyone to explore and analyze.

The project is designed with maximum scalability in mind. Each pulse monitoring station is simply and cheaply built and anyone can add to the network of pulse monitors across the city, the country, or even the world.
By truly understanding the literal pulse of our cities for the first time ever, we hope to inspire a broader sense of civic community and humbly facilitate a constructive dialogue on how to design the healthier and more livable cities of the future.

Project by George Zisiadis, Matt Ligon, Rachel McConnell and Rich Trapani.”

Source, Image Source 1: Pulse of the City: Urban Prototyping Festival 2012

Image Source 2: Nathan Hurst, WIRED magazine

Google Steals Holodeck Idea from Star Trek with “Interactive Spaces” and it’s Fantastic

Remember when you first discovered the Holodeck, and tried to recreate it with cardboard and paper cutouts in your room? Maybe that was just me.  But get ready, because when you read this article about Google’s new software framework that creates interactive experiences in real physical space, you’re going to be blown away.  Called Interactive Spaces, the open source project was released through Google’s blog this past Monday, and you can check out a copy of the post (written by Keith Hughes of the Experience Engineering Team) below:

“There are cameras in the ceiling which are doing blob tracking, in this case the blobs are people walking on the floor. The floor then responds to the blobs by having colored circles appear underneath the feet of someone standing on the floor and then having the circles follow that person around.
Interactive Spaces works by having “consumers” of events, like the floor, connect to “producers” of events, like those cameras in the ceiling. Any number of “producers” and “consumers” can be connected to each other, making it possible to create quite complex behavior in the physical space.
Interactive Spaces is written in Java, so it can run on any operating system that supports Java, including Linux and OSX and soon Windows.
Interactive Spaces provides a collection of libraries for implementing the activities which will run in your interactive space. Implementing an activity can require anything from a few lines in a simple configuration file to you creating the proper interfaces entirely from scratch. The former gets you off the ground very quickly, but limits what your activity can do, while the latter allows you the most power at the cost of more complexity. Interactive Spaces also provides activities’ runtime environment, allowing you to deploy, start, and stop the activities running on multiple computers from a central web application in your local network.
Additional languages like Javascript and Python are supported out of the box. Native applications can also be run, which means packages like openFrameworks which use C++ are also supported out of the box. Plans are also underway for supporting the Processing language.”

No big deal or anything, I’m just sort of FREAKING OUT right now.  This is incredibly cool.  I also dig the added support for Processing, the program I’m currently learning that is fantastic for creating graphics.  Google thinks Processing’s enhanced graphic ability will make a great addition to Interactive Spaces by heightening its visual aesthetic.

I’d like to mention Rockwell Group here, as they collaborated with Google on the project’s initial designs.  They are a New York and Europe-based company whose LAB division “creates narratives and new design opportunities that provide deeper and more valuable experiences for visitors and inhabitants.”  Check out the company’s bio below:

“In general, the ambition of the LAB is to explore, experiment, and embed interactive experiences augmented with digital technology in objects, environments and stories. This activity includes in-house design and the creation of interactive environments/objects, scripting software, science and technology consultation, and maintaining networks of technology solution providers. Our toolkit includes working with custom hardware and software for RFID, UPC scanning, video processing, sonar, capacitance, shape memory alloy, LED and lighting technologies, wireless communications, and screen-based dynamically composited animation” (rockwellgroup).

I look forward to seeing what happens with Interactive Spaces while, at the same time, being super jealous that I don’t have this awesome toy to play with nor the knowledge to make it myself!

Oh Hey Blog, I haven’t forgotten about ya

Yikes-it’s been a while since I’ve posted!  To be honest, I’ve been a bit busy with my own interactive work!  After finally *conquering* the sadistic world of arrays, I made my first video game ever using Processing, an interactive platform and coding language that is basically a more art-oriented version of Java.  It’s a raindrop game where you have to “catch” raindrops with the mouse before they hit the end of the screen.  While it’s not my original code (its from Daniel Shiffman’s ‘Learning Processing,’ which is absolutely a fantastic tool), I did manage to make the raindrops way prettier and create some gravity to add more of a challenge.

 I can’t wait until I learn how to reference external videos and images! It’s going to be sick. Over the next month I will FINALLY be learning the “cool” stuff–videos, imaging, advanced object-oriented programming, converting to html, and translating to Java, C++, iPad apps, etc.

So stay tuned.  As soon as I get to the point where I can put some stuff online, you can bet I will.  In the meantime, new interactive art showcasing to follow…

Mind-Reading is the Future of Interactive Media

Using nothing but her brain, Cathy Hutchinson drinks a canteen of coffee at Brown University.  As the straw touches her lips, you see a quiver of a smile; after she takes a good long sip, her face brightens with a genuine laugh.  Hutchinson has good reason to be happy– now 58 years old, she has struggled with quadriplegia since her stroke fifteen years ago.

As a volunteer for Brown’s cognitive study, Hutchinson had a “computer mind interface” only a few millimeters in size implanted in her brain–specifically, a patch of neurons in her motor cortex.  The interface works by “translating neuronal activity directly into control signals for assistive devices” (Nature).  In this case the assistive device is a robotic arm that moves in three-dimensional space. Researchers hope this implant will one day restore the mobility and independence that many handicapped people must live without. Very exciting technology!

But, of course, I am not handicapped, so why might I be so excited about this? Interactive art, people!! Duh!  As I write this, the people at Google are probably thinking of all the wonderful ways we can implement this to make regular, non-handicapped people even lazier (sorry, not trying to hate on the google glasses, I just think they are mispurposed. And no, that’s not a real word).  I recently read this heart-wrenching Gizmodo article called “Being Deaf: How Different the World is Without Hearing.” I wonder, could this implant create new methods of communication for those who are born deaf?  And what about blindness? Only good things can come from this research.

Since I’m still only on Chapter 9 of my processing book, I can’t quite conceptualize the amount of programming and research that goes into a chip like this. I wonder…one day, will we all have chips in our brains?  Will the interface be commercial, and only available to those in the highest tax bracket? Perhaps the chip will someday be programmed to read other people’s chips, creating a new “internet,” a revolutionary platform for communication and information sharing.

In my last post I discussed women’s proclivity towards mind-reading and speaking in code…this is a whole new level of telepathic communication!  What will we women do when we no longer have to decode thoughts, and can literally just know them instead?

Sounds either really good, or really, really bad.  Until that happens, I think I’ll just appreciate the simplicity of life as it is.

Source: Nature

Step Inside your Individualized Colorbox


Brought to life as a Kickstarter project, Colorbox is an awesome way to “get inside art.”  Created in part by Gabriel Mott, your motions dictate what happens to projected colors and lights once you step inside a giant white box.  Anyway, Kickstarter seems to be a great platform for interactive art, which can require some very expensive materials such as projectors, cameras, and technology.  Good to know…

Click here to visit the Color Box website.

Interactive Artist Profile: Jennifer Steinkamp

I’ve loved Jennifer Steinkamp’s work ever since I was visiting a friend at Pomona College and was fortunate enough to have her as a guest speaker for my friend’s art class.  Had I known I would be so interested in this stuff back then, I would have asked a lot more questions.  Steinkamp creates beautiful multimedia installations such as the one pictured above and below; check it out and see a full list of her impressive multimedia repertoire at her personal website.

You Want This: Digital Rug

NTT Learning Group created this large-scale interactive rug that makes walking seem a whole lot more interesting!  Watch the flowers sway as this little girl tests it out. Then try to tell me you don’t want this for yourself…

Source: NTT

Art that Reflects the Universe

Here are three pieces featured in last February’s Kinetica Artfair that take inspiration from our very own Universe.  From the movement of atoms within matter to an understanding of space, time, and nothingness, these projects draw from the fibers that make up our worlds and, as a result, are very cool.

András Mengyán,  Polyphonic Visual Space (2011)

“In his current work, Mengyán attempts to find the answers to three questions:  a. ‘How is it possible (if it is possible at all) to comprehend simultaneously, the multifaceted nature and qualitative changes and aspects of a perceived environment?’  b. ‘Is there any means of visually expressing this simultaneous perception?’ and, c. ‘Is our three dimensional awareness adequate to comprehend all of these?’  The weighing up of the possibilities of providing an answer led him to a sort of solution, which in short he refers to as: Polyphonic Visual Space or ‘Simultaneous Spatial-View’.” (Kinetica)

Tom Wilkinson, Green Ray (1999)

“Recognising that all matter and physical objects are made of particles in motion with vast gaps of nothingness between their composite atoms, Wilkinson is interested in the movement of energy and the pattern that are created in the process. The spherical form is of particular interest as Wilkinson considers it to be the purest form in the physical world, the shape all matter, when fluid, gravitates towards.” (Wilkinson)

Martin Bricelj Baraga, Darkstar (2012)

Teaser trailer:

“DarkStar is a developing interactive sculpture for public space that generates an audiovisual interpretation of its direct and indirect surroundings. The installation reacts to the space it is situated in and the people around it but also to the movements of the stars.

Unlike ‘traditional’ monuments, DarkStar does not pay tribute to historic figures (politicians, soldiers, religious leaders, etc). Instead, DarkStar is an organism that pays homage to the city, space and time.

The illuminated part of the monument rotates in a full circle every minute. This means that DarkStar functions as a clock that only counts minutes and so marks the ever faster passage of time. The installation is a huge dome that reflects moon phases. The size of the illuminated section of the moon is transferred into the illuminated part of the Star which reflects the movements of the people within the space.”(Bturn)

Sources: ImageAndrás Mengyán, Tom WilkinsonMartin Bricelj Baraga, Darkstar, Bturn