This BeatBearing project on YouTube by Peter Bennett is one of those physical interaction ideas that sounded great on paper, but is a bit useless in the flesh.
It’s a “tangible sequencer” but because it has so few slots, the actual rhythms you can produce are pretty clunky early 80s action (which is now old skool twice over – he’ll have to wait for the third 80s revival).
I’m sure it was a great exercise to build it, but it’s kind of what happens when you do a PhD and lose the joy and play. I’d prefer a Tenori-On personally.
Sometimes you have to love the Wisdom of YouTube, This comment caught my eye:
bl4h1: we just spent hundreds of years evolving away from this sort of thing. whats next actual instruments?
I’ve just been chatting with my online students in Australia about emerging media and it led me to do some quick sums on the merits of Titanic, the biggest grossing movie of all time, and Evolution of Dance, the most popular video on YouTube ever.
So, Judson Laipply’s frankly rubbish Evolution of Dance comes in at 58,381,789 views.The real figure is probably a lot more because people uploaded loads of duplicates (and still do) and also upload them to other video sharing services as well as ripping it and sending direct via e-mail.
Compare this to something like cinema and you start getting a picture of how powerful hyperdistribution can be.
I was clearing out some old CDs and found a Videobrasil XII one with this Antirom RGB performace on it. I think Gisela may have shot the footage as there are also some interviews with us at the Antirom office (looking very young). But I’m not sure where this performance was and have no doubt violated someone’s copyright.
Sorry about the ultra-compressed low quality, it was a Cinepak, tiny QT movie and the framerate seems a bit broken too, but it gives you a good idea of the flavour and atmosphere of the performance all those years ago.
[UPDATE: I’ve re-compressed and re-uploaded the video above (and removed the old one). It’s still pretty rough, but the frame-rate is better.]
Evidently Reactable has been around for a couple of years, but I hadn’t heard about it until one of my ex-students, Gabi, sent me the link.
Undoubtedly Reactable is a really great implementation of a tangible interface and it is also plugging into the whole multi-touch mania (although it’s a completely different system – it uses a camera to track the faces and orientation of the objects).
I’m just slightly disappointed to see them using it to create that kind of electronica synth noise blinky-blonk stuff again. If you create a new interface, it’s worth thinking about how it means you can do things differently to before. For me the actual audio they are producing could still be a couple of guys behind laptops on Reason or something similar.
It’s great to see the collaborative abilities of it, but again, same result. Interestingly one of the creators says in the Berlin video (the one above) that they created it from a concept rather than the technology, unlike many other technology heavy projects.
I think this is often a really good approach, especially for things that have another ‘purpose’ behind the interface (like YouTube, etc. which is about sharing content, not the interface necessarily). But sometimes, especially when trying to develop new interactive paradigms, it’s more suitable to work from the technology outwards. I don’t mean the kind of awful computer science kind of projects, which are totally cold. I mean a kind of balance in the middle where you are playing with the technologies to see what inherent properties and language it has. That way you can find out new ways of thinking and doing and interacting.
Often starting from a concept means that you’re basing your concept on previous paradigms – in the case of Reactable, that’s all those Max/MSP patch style audio applications. They’ve pretty much substituted the boxes and lines for, well, real boxes and virtual lines.
So the folks behind the popular BitTorrent client, Azureus have launched a service which Wired has described as a YouTube for HD video. It’s called Zudeo and leverages BitTorrent’s ability to spread the download (and bandwidth) via peer-to-peer swarms.
The Zudeo client is basically Azureus with some nicer front end bits pulled in, but Advanced Mode still drops you into the old Azureus interface. It’s not quite there yet in terms of click and watch, but it’s getting there.
Why should you or I care? Well BitTorrent is a really smart way of distributing heavy content (i.e. large files), but has been a bit clunky/geeky to use still. It’s a step closer to legitimising its use as well as making it easier for people to use. Mark Pesce has talked about this whole area for some time, as have I. It’s fast (I just downloaded an HD trailer of about 130MB in four minutes) and it’s socially responsible (I’m seeding and uploading the same trailer to others at the moment).
YouTube has, I believe, worked well precisely because of the low (visual) quality of its content. It’s a lot less threatening to copyright holders (not that this has stopped them complaining). Zudeo could present a real paradigm shift that moves away from the centralised model of iTunes, etc. It could also provide a really good platform for independent content to be released in all its high quality, HD glory. So for those of you with an AppleTV box plugged into your HD plasma screen you’ll never need to leave home again.
They’re not alone in this, by the way, those good chaps over at Tape It Off The Internet (a much more amusing name) have been Beta testing their own, similar service for some time.
So of course Greyworld’s Andrew Shoben couldn’t let me name-check Antirom on YouTube without sending me one of his own. This one of him wearing a top hat and tails and a tail. A lot of effort for a pun.
The most astonishing thing is that nobody takes any notice, especially in the supermarket. Not only is it pretty unusual to see someone in full opera gear, but the guy has a tail. Watch all the Londoners wrapped up in their own busy worlds completely refuse to blink at the unusual.
In it they describe three projects that involve physical interaction with fairly everyday objects, but that are all playful. My favourite two are probably the Musical Chairs that consists of a set of stools set up in a row. When sat upon the stool creates some audio-visual feedback, but the best part happens when someone sits on another stool as a kind of circuit is set up between them. When someone then sits in-between, the person on the end is cut out of the circuit – so of course people start playing musical chairs.
I thought this quote was a very good summary of the central principles of interactivity:
Our observations brought us to the realization that as long as the interactive vocabulary of such systems is simple enough to be
understood quickly by viewers and participants, then they can be effective. This is a clear barrier – a system that is too complicated to understand within a 30 second window will go unused in most cases. We view effectiveness in this context as a situation in which casual participants, who do not have much time on their hands, will successfully negotiate and understand the interaction model of the object and thus enter into an enjoyable and playful session with it.
I’ll see if I can get some decent images and video from Amnon (perhaps he could upload to YouTube?). in the meantime, read the paper.
I’ve been catching up with my blog reading and thought Todd Dominey’s point about MTV trailing YouTube was worth a re-blog as it hooks into what I wrote previously about Apple’s iTV news. Todd’s full post has this to say:
A thought occurred to me watching the opening of the 2006 VMAs on MTV, which included a live rendition of the now famous treadmill video by OK Go. There was a time when MTV could have been responsible for popularizing the video (and the band as well), when the focus of MTV was music. Today however, the tail is wagging the dog, and it’s YouTube that’s breaking music videos. And MTV, once the leader in music video, is left with sloppy seconds. How times change.