An Audience of Mirrors

Audience is a new installation from rAndom International, with software by Chris O’Shea, for the Deloitte Ignite Festival at the Royal Opera House. 64 mirrors are places in a ‘crowd’ and programmed to behave with different ‘human’ characteristics.

It’s a witty reversal of the normal roles of art and audience although obviously still in the vein of camera-based interactives (and following on from interactive mirror works by people like Danny Rozin. But for me the two most interesting things are how simple movements can make the mirrors seem quite alive and sentient as well as how people try to “work out” or “trick” the system.

Check out the guy in the pink t-shirt who ends up performing for the other onlookers in the video above. It’s always fascinating to see how physical interactives can make people do all sorts of things they would otherwise not consider doing in a public space.

Play as you go – hijacking public spaces

A quick reblog of Pixelsumo’s post about Bruno Taylor’s work hijacking public places to make playful spaces, which explores the notion that play is being designed out of the public realm.

“71% of adults used to play on the streets when they were young. 21% of children do so now,” says Taylor.

The above video is a nice guerilla take-over of a bus stop to turn it into a swing. I’m amazed, and pleased, that nobody stopped them. This is London right? You can hardly take a photo without the police stopping and searching you. But I often feel these kind of childhood playthings have a way of connecting to some deep feelings of dissatisfaction with what our adult lives have turned into and make people much more accepting of them.

Chris has some nice pics on Pixelsumo and you’ll want to check out the rest of his playgrounds postings whilst you’re there.

Out of Bounds interview with Chris O’ Shea


Chris O’ Shea recently completed Out of Bounds during his residency at the Design Museum. Chris also writes the very good Pixelsumo from which I frequently steal links draw inspiration and I’ve been a little remiss about blogging this earlier, but Chris promised to also put some video documentation up online (which helps explain the project) and also agreed to do a short interview.

Out of Bounds makes real the childhood fantasy of having superhero X-Ray vision to explore parts of the Design Museum that are normally not accessible to the public. It’s also an extremely playful piece that, as Chris puts it, encourages adults to “relinquish the learnt behaviour of adulthood and reconnect with the wonderment of youth.”

Click the read link for the interview…. Continue reading “Out of Bounds interview with Chris O’ Shea”

Light on Pixelsumo

Nice set of posts on playful, interactive household lights from Chris over at Pixelsumo.


I’m particularly partial to Hector Srrano’s Superpatata above (partly because of the name I think) and also Demelza Hill’s Reveal Lighting.

Good to see Yuko Taguchi’s wind down clock that she made for the Hulgerisation project in there too. Nik Roope and I chatted about that very lamp in our Core77 podcast about Hulger.

[tags]pixelsumo, lighting, hulger, interactivity[/tags]

Where to now with multitouch?

I’ve been doing a bit of catching up with my blog reading recently and noticed Chris’s post on Pixelsumo about the HP giant Multi-Touch screen with the interface created by Darren David. Now that mutltouch has become the dish du jour, it’s time to start working out what to do with it, as Chris points out:

More and more developers are now creating multi-touch screens, without really asking WHY. Now that the technology is open and there are communities available to help, this takes away the initial learning curve. A criticism of all these kinds of projects for me is that the model of interaction doesn’t change. Han, iPhone, Surface and this project all do the two finger drag to stretch a photo, rotate it etc. Who needs to throw a photo around a screen? Unless the interface itself is a toy and a showcase, rather than concentrating on meaningful interaction or function.

Like all new technology, we are just getting to grips with it. It will be interesting to see where it goes next, or if it dies from lack of new creative ideas.

I suspect throwing photos around the screen is probably quite good fun actually, for a while. But he’s right in asking ‘where next?’. I’m really happy to see the cost of these systems falling and people like the NUI Group putting together open-source libraries and research into sensors and multi-touch. The easier it becomes for people to play wit these technologies, the more likely it is that some interesting ideas will be generated and/or found.

Until then, there is the danger that it’s all done for the sake of it, as this brilliant Surface parody shows:

(Thanks to Nic and Iain for that video link).

More Surface Information

Chris over at Pixelsumo just mailed me some more links to do with the background and technology behind the Microsoft Surface table. One is from Ars Technica and explores the technology more (much of which is available in the press download from Microsoft). The other from Popular Mechanics has some more demos of other systems, including Jeff Han’s who seems to be the poster boy for multi-touch at present (along with the iPhone).

There are also another couple from Abstract Machine and Fast Company too. The Abstract Machine one by Douglas Edric Stanley is great to put all this newness in perspective (that actually it’s all pretty old, it’s just hit the mainstream now. Almost).

The video of Jeff Han also has an interview with him and he talks about how the mouse is an ‘indirect pointing device’ that is one step removed from the content. This is something we talked about a lot at Antirom. At the time (and still, in much interactive content) there was a preponderance of interfaces that had buttons with labels like “Click here to view the video”. You clicked a real button on the mouse to make the mouse pointer click a fake button on the screen to make the video play, when actually you could just click on the video and/or move the mouse around to change the speed, etc. The image below is of an audio mixer, for example. You just drag the images which have sounds ‘attached’ to them (so when your mouse is closer to each one, it’s louder and the image is less blurred) rather than using a fake 3d mixing desk.

Antirom Soundspace Mixer

Much of our experimentation and invention – that led to thinks like the scrolling engine (Shockwave requried) – were based upon trying to strip back as many layers of interface as possible. In the end we wanted to directly manipulate the content so that the content was the interface and quite often the interactivity was the content. I’m looking forward to the first time I get to have a go on one of these multi-touch interfaces to see whether you really do have that experience.

Thanks Chris!

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre

Kinetic Theatre - photo: Chris O\'Shea

I’m super happy to see Chris O’Shea’s post about his visit to the Kinetica Museum to see the retrospective exhibition of the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre & The Ride of Life down at Spitalfields.

I remember visiting their museum in Covent Garden as a child and being enthralled by the automata and mechanical toys. (We still have a couple of small ones that we bought there all those years ago). For me they sum up such a beautiful mix of craftsmanship, ingenuity, wit, British rude postcard humour and surreal visions that are always playful. They are also really the origins of interactivity – much of what we do electronically now has its roots in these automata.

It reminded me of the fascinating presentation at the 2005 Refresh! conference by Gunalan Nadarajan. It was called Islamic Automation: A Reading of al-Jazari’s The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices (1206) in which he examines interactivity and automata that are many hundreds of years old. You can watch the archived video stream of it if you’re interested.

Check out Chris’s Flickr set for more photos of the Kinetica exhibition (from which this one is nicked).

[UPDATE: I went to see it myself this week and it’s really great. Go to it!]