At Go2, we’re constantly experimenting in our studio to come up with new and creative ways of using technology for our projection mapping and immersive projects. So it was with much excitement that Adrian and Patrick, our Executive Creative Director and Developer/Designer respectively, packed their bags and headed out to New Orleans for INSTINT 2017. And it was amazing.
INSTINT is a three-day gathering focusing on the art of interactivity of objects, environments and experiences. Obviously, our team felt right at home here. The convention featured an A-list roster of top professionals who are creating and experimenting in that fascinating space at the intersection of art and technology. The guys came back extremely inspired by all the talks and the people they met, brimming with new ideas they can’t wait to execute on.
Here are some of the lessons/takeaways they brought back:
- Machine learning can function as a tool that aids artists, musicians and creators to achieve their own aims
In her talk titled ‘Creative Interactions with Machine Learning’, Dr Rebecca Fiebrink talked about her research to find new ways for humans to interact with computers in a creative practice. Fiebrink is the developer of the Wekinator software for interactive machine learning. She built this several years ago with just a basic webcam and a simple drum machine. Fiebrink had them set up so that if a song was playing a certain way, she could give it an example in the webcam of a certain pose and she did this till she had thousands of examples. Within 4-5 minutes she was able to play a whole song just by performing different physical movements like hand gestures.
During the workshop, everyone got to build their own direct interactions and using lead motion some developers built a machine to play Rock-Paper-Scissors with. Depending on what you played next, it would learn the way that you were playing Rock-Paper-Scissors, and the game would slowly get harder. The machine was also sensing within a split second whether you were going to throw out Rock or Paper or Scissors. The implications for gesture recognition, and creating new interfaces for people to interact with the things that we create, has taken a gigantic leap. Machine learning can be pretty unnerving but very powerful and it will be interesting to see what you can do with these kinds of applications in the future.
- Unique interactions emerge when you create a space for open play
Emily Gobeille and Theodore Watson from Design I/O have been involved in the production of large-scale, immersive projections and interactions. Their most famous project is ‘Connected Worlds’ which took place in a large circular room, with projected content on all the walls. At the very back of the room, there’s a waterfall that looks like it’s pouring water on the floor, and you can re-route the water, using logs, that are like pillows on the floor, and then feed water to the different ecosystems that live along the edges of the wall.
Emily and Theodore talked about the power of play and to aid their research, many of these installations are put into museums, where kids can interact with them. They try to give as little instruction as possible to the children, and during the first 15 mins the children don’t really know what to do – it’s all experimental. But then they start manipulating the system, and start working with each other as teams to try and keep certain areas of the ecosystem healthy. Different kids take on different roles: some will plant seeds, others will water them, some will go around doing one job, some of them don’t do any jobs and they just manage the other children. It’s interesting to know that you don’t really need to hold people’s hands all the way through an experience like this, and that if you give them just a few clues on how it works, the process of discovery can lead to new types of interactions that you didn’t even design. Because the system is so complex it sometimes lets people use it in a way that you’ve never experienced before.
The second project they created involved producing high-res scans of a museum’s collection and creating video walls with them. You could stand in front of the wall and it sensed where you were and put a magnifying glass where you were standing. With the magnification, you could move around and look at different pieces in the collection. And the creators found, by accident, that if a bunch of people stood together, it would make a massive magnifying glass. So they found that people would be organically shuffling around together to get the biggest magnifying glass that was possible. These are the types of emerging interactions that come through creating a space for open play.
- Frozen data sets can produce beautiful, dynamic visuals
Refik Anadol is an LA-based artist who uses data sets from the city and government sites to create stunning visuals. He creates permanent projection mapping installations that have elements of interactivity in them. A lot of his installations are interactive in the way that they are interfacing with public information like government websites that monitor crime rate or sewer health for example. He takes spreadsheets of these numbers and creates something beautiful out of it that responds and reacts in real time. The interactions that he produces are a bit more abstract – it’s not necessarily as simple as someone waving their hand in front of sensors – but it’s amazing what he’s able to do and create out of this data.
Refik has used interesting buildings as his canvas for colossal video projections that contort, merge and morph fantastically to an accompanying soundscape. One of his well-known projects was the stunning, immersive performance, titled “Visions of America: Amériques,” which took place inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The software behind the instalment was able to analyse sound and the conductor’s body movements, and convert that data into real-time graphics. This project was part of Anadol’s MFA thesis where he aimed to think of architecture as a canvas and light as a material.
All in all, it was an unforgettable experience – the INSTINT community is inclusive, welcoming and opened our eyes to a whole range of new topics. We’ve found ‘our people’ and we’ll be back next year!