Responsive Performance: Spatial Media Final

For my Spatial Media final, I worked with Igal Nassima on a dance-performance, technology project. It was meant to be a site-specific work, that would eventually incorporate choreography with a specific dancer or dance group.

The inspiration for this project was the dance performance “Mortal Engine” by Chunky Move.

Igal was also particularly impressed with the geometric shapes in this short performance, called “Triadic Ballet”.

We also found other dance-technology performances online, such as this beautiful performance called “Frost”.

FROST from Tina Tarpgaard on Vimeo.

As you can see from our proposal, our intent was to incorporate more architectural elements into the stage area of the performance space.

When we actually started to implement the code, we ran into a few problems. First, I’m not so hot at C++ and I felt pretty overwhelmed with the coding challenge. I really appreciated working with Igal, since he’s much more advanced, but it also made it quite difficult for me to really understand what was going on. For example, when I wanted to make a big change to the code, I had to ask for help in order to figure it out. For my section, I used some of the extracurricular work I’d been doing with Jared Schiffman on building grids and changing colors to create different visuals for the project. Igal then incorporated that work into whatever he’d been working on.

We also had trouble with our physical area. Originally, Igal’s designated staging area was too much of a high traffic area for our needs and we had trouble controlling the lighting. We wanted to include 2 cameras, but our lighting/space environment was much too spastic and unpredictable to rely on. So, eventually we shared a space with Molly and Diego, which helped.

We used a one-panel backdrop, a short-throw projector and a web-cam mounted horizontally between 2 AutoPoles. We ended up using 1 camera because we were never quite able to use the TripleHead2Go, despite searching for drivers.

To be honest, I’m not really happy with the end result of our project. Things just didn’t seem to go well from the get go, and I sort of lost confidence early on. By the time we got our code to really work well – as in, the day of – there really wasn’t time for us seriously choreograph anything, aside from general movements you might do when you’re looking in a funhouse mirror. So, during our critique, we didn’t get many useful comments which makes it hard to know how to improve.

I think that for work like this, if you really want to do something spectacular a dedicated performance space is essential, for not just the dancers but also the technologists. And, you also need a space for them to work together. I do remember reading some research on this topic once before, I think at Ohio State University. Their dance and computer science collaboration also had similar difficulties with the collaboration space itself, and the difficulties of miscommunication or of underestimating the amount of time it would take for a computer scientist or dancer to modify their work quickly. I think I assumed that it would be easier for me, since I sort of understand them both. Really, it’s not the same and I’m finding that the lives of dancer or technologist/designer are very, very different. So much so that I think one infringes on the the other. I guess that’s if you want to be a purist and only do dance or only do design. I think it is possible for a dance-tech team to work, but this project I think was doomed from the start, in that I (as the dancer) needed to focus on the programming aspects and not just the dance aspects. If we had separated our work more, perhaps the end result would have been more fruitful…or maybe just more time would’ve helped. I definitely do not think this type of work is easy.

Code is here. I worked on GraphicsTwo.

(Extra work I did with Jared Schiffman.)

Design Inspiration

Today, I took a trip to two places that I hoped would provide some design inspiration. First, the Official NYC information center which uses these disks as interactive elements as well as a touch screen tv display and overhead tracking mechanism (I think). The displays help visitors find things to do in New York, save them to their disk, and print, email or text the information to their phone, so that they can create a custom guide to New York City.

General view of the center
Instructions to create a custom NYC guide
View what celebrity New Yorkers like to do in the city
The disk is placed onto a reader...
Your selections are displayed using Google Earth on a set of large monitors
Wall-based touch screen

The second place I visited was the American Museum of Natural Science, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was a brief trip. I just wanted to get an idea of what types of displays they had and if a touch-based display would be appropriate. There’s a lot of information in the museum and I wasn’t there too long. But, here are some of the displays that the museum has, that I hope will become useful to me.

Touchscreen display

Display of earthquakes, worldwide
Display of earthquakes, worldwide

Static museum display
Static museum display

Buffalo display
Buffalo display

Earthquake display
Earthquake display

Map of the floors at the natural history museum
Map of the floors at the natural history museum

Brainstorming for a horizontal display

The way my project for Spatial Media has been developing has not been, shall we say, linear — at all. Not knowing which group member I was going to work with has obviously been making the brainstorming process quite difficult. Thankfully, at some point I did finally come to some idea for what to do.

The only hard constraint for the table so far is that it has to be a horizontal surface. The floor, a bench, a chair seat, and a table are all candidates for the project. Initially, my first thought was to put it on the floor so that the interface would be fully interactive with the entire body, but after a while I guess I lost interest in that idea while I thought about the purpose of a floor-based interface.

Our instructor gave us a couple of thoughts to consider: content, context and space. That is, what information will the interface have, what will people expect to find in a particular space, and how will it work within that space. I tried to think of places where people go and expect to find information. Such as a library, museum, visitors’ center, train station, etc.

Well, I remembered investigating a few visitor’s centers in arboretums or state parks, and I thought about how the displays are typically flat but not usually interactive. I was kind of worried about making a horizontal surface, but then I considered the Potion design example with the shoes…and I thought about a interactive display using natural elements as the interactive objects.

My partner and I are still not sure of what we will do, but we had a discussion about natural elements, so I think we’re still going in this direction. We both agreed to visit a couple of inspirational places, which I did and have written about in the next post.

Spatial Media: Assignment 2, The (Kitchen) Table

My concept for this assignment was to make a kitchen table that mimics the surface of water. It allows the diners and the items on the surface of the table to be equal partners in the interaction experience.

Water table example

The PDF description is here and the OpenFrameworks zip file is here.

I also found an excellent Processing example of ripples, which perhaps in the next 5 years I’ll be able to translate into OpenFrameworks.

As found on the forum
Link to the source code
Link to the .mov video example