Unamed Soundsculpture

What with all the talk of service design, I’ve been ignoring my interactive roots, but for a research project about buildings as hybrid communication hubs (more on that another time) I’ve had a reason to take a look at Processing and a couple of interactive tools again. A few things have caught my eye recently.

The first is a piece currently on the Processing exhibition page. It’s a video work called Unnamed Soundsculpture by Daniel Franke and Cedric Kiefer. I’m not such a big fan of the music, but the way they created the piece is interesting:

[A dancer] was recorded by three depth cameras (Kinect), in which the intersection of the images was later put together to a three-dimensional volume (3d point cloud), so we were able to use the collected data throughout the further process. The three-dimensional image allowed us a completely free handling of the digital camera, without limitations of the perspective. The camera also reacts to the sound and supports the physical imitation of the musical piece by the performer.

I’m especially impressed by the use of the Kinect cameras – previously that kind of equipment was in the domain of specialised motion-capture studios for large budget visual effects. These guys are just in their studio with the Kinect cameras taped to some podiums.


(Image: ChopChop)

I’ll blog about the others presently.

Confusing Information with the Form

Information from MAYAnMAYA on Vimeo.

Lovely video from design and research consultancy MAYA on the difference between information and the form we give it.

I came across this on David Sherwin’s ChangeOrder blog in a post about moving beyond words for better brainstorming, which is also and interesting article. He asks why it is so hard to break people out of their regular ideation habits. Words are one problem, but it is also an issue of corporate and company culture, even within design agencies.

The rules of brainstorming are pretty much the opposite of what a usual business culture is. Working in a company that has a traditional hierarchy encourages sniping, competitive, uncooperative, pressured and role-based behaviour. It’s the way people “fight to the top”, create “creative competition” and so on.

It’s very hard to convince people to take suspending those habits seriously if they’re not taken seriously at a company culture level and we have come to consider that the normal way of working. Companies like IDEO or Pixar spend a lot of time and effort on not working this way. It’s no surprise that they are successful in this area and why so many other companies fail to bring ‘innovation’ into their culture, despite bringing in consultants who specialise in ‘innovation training’ or whatever the latest business buzzword is. The consultants, of course, are temporary blips, outside the main culture of the company, so easily dismissed after they have gone.

Much like MAYA’s video, you have to re-think what it is and means to work together, what the purpose and idea of a company is to really change its culture. A company is the form given to a group of people working together, but it is by no means the only, nor the best, form.

Little Red Riding Hood, Infographics Style

You have to admire the Swedish ability to indoctrinate their students with brilliant design skills.

The above Little Red Riding Hood piece by Toma Nilsson was for a college project, inspired by the Röyskopp videos and got tweeted all over the place in the last couple of weeks.

I know plenty of experienced professional designers who would love to have made that (including me), damn the man! If any of my students are reading this – that’s what I’ll be expecting at the end of the semester, okay?

Holographic Worlds and Gestural Interfaces

The Holodeck remains a fantasy for Trekkies and we’re still not yet jacked into The Matrix (or are we? Oooh.). Guys going to enormous lengths to build stuff for their girlfriends, on the other hand, has long been part of the human condition.

World Builder by Bruce Branit is about a guy who builds a holographic world for the woman he loves. There’s a reason it is holographic, which you find out when you get to the ending, so I won’t spoil it here. The film was shot in a day, but then took two years of post-production to finish off. Who says computers make things quicker?

The main reason for blogging it is because of some of the gestural interface elements in it. The overlay buttons and keypads are the usual fare and I remain unconvinced that jabbing at a floating holographic keypad button would be a useful UI approach, although it always looks good on screen. There are also some controls like spreading the fingers to enlarge and object and using the fingertips to rotate a virtual control knob that are already in use in gestural interfaces.

I’m not sure I have seen the idea of being able to pick up things like colours and textures on your fingertips and apply them to objects yet though in an existing multitouch interface. A few desktop applications use that kind of sticky mouse idea and 3D and 2D applications kind of use it with tools and colour/texture chips, but I still haven’t seen it all that smoothly done. Adobe seem to screw this up further and further with every release rather than making it easier. (Does CS really stand for ‘crappy shit’ rather than ‘creative suite’?)

The main issue with a gestural or multitouch interface would be keeping track of the identity of a particular finger tip once it has left the touch panel, it seems to me. But maybe someone has already solved this and it is in use – let me know if you know more.

(Thanks to one of my ex-students, Nico Marzian for mailing me the link).

Interactive Video Object Manipulation

I have noticed I have been posting a lot of videos recently – I’m not sure if that’s me being lazy or that some things are simply a lot easier to explain when you see them in action (or interact with them).

One interface area that has not really changed a great deal over the years is in video editing and compositing. The two choices are timeline (such as you see in Final Cut, After Effects, etc.) or the kind of patch module used in Shake and other compositing tools. Both of these borrow heavily from their analogue roots (A-Roll/B-Roll film and video editing and optical printers).

If you have ever had to motion track a piece of video in order to glue a layer to a moving object in the video, you’ll know it’s pretty time consuming, even with the best of tools. This demonstration by Dan B Goldman from Adobe Systems shows how much easier this could be with a much more direct interface. I expect we can hope for it to be integrated into Adobe products at some point.

If you want to get technical, you can a PDF of Dan’s research paper is available on his site.

(Via Designing For Humans.com)

Enhancing Videos with Spacetime Fusion

Using Photographs to Enhance Videos of a Static Scene from pro on Vimeo.

This technology from Pravin Bhat over at the University of Washington is pretty impressive. It uses high resolution still images to enhance video footage. It also enables dynamic masking and all sorts of other goodness. The interactive cutout video is interesting too – unlike most compositing ways of thinking, which are pretty much working in 2D on a frame-by-frame basis, their system looks through the pixels temporally and allows you to select through them by time in a kind of time smear fashion.

It should make a big impact in post-production, but I can imagine it might come into all sorts of use for both devious manipulation of video, fixing up crappy YouTube clips as well as crime-scene investigation. And “Spacetime Fusion” is such a great name.

(Via Iain at Crackunit)

Smart German Supermarket


The BBC has a video report about a German supermarket Future Store from German supermarket chain, Real.

Rather than use RFID tags to do the scanning of all the stuff in your shopping trolley (that’s ‘cart’ to you folks over the Atlantic), they’ve gone for a mobile phone solution. Basically you take photos of all the bar codes and their phone software generates one master bar code that you scan back in (very meta-media that) at the end in order to pay.

They do use RFID tags for their ‘smart freezers’, which know what meat has been taken out and sold. But the best feature, which requires very little in the way of tech, is the self-service wine-tasting. That’s a really smart idea.

My supermarket here in Germany doesn’t take credit cards, only EC Cards and Germany is a very paper and cash oriented culture I’ve found. I wonder how this will pan out… Personally I’ve really been enjoying the whole Richard Scarry small town experience with a baker and a butcher, etc., all of whom know me.

(Via Core77).