Author Archives: Yuci Zhou

Project 1 Post Mortem :: Your Choice

We installed the project in various spots across the 2nd floor of Heimbold. Printed the photos and price tags, we stuck them onto the wall with double-sided tape. We installed five different groups of juxtapositions:
Milk OR Organic Milk?

Milk OR Organic Milk?

Eggs OR Organic Eggs?

Eggs OR Organic Eggs?

Coke OR Juice?

Coke OR Juice?

Canned Tomatoes OR Fresh Tomatoes?

Canned Tomatoes OR Fresh Tomatoes?

Frozen Blackberries OR Fresh Blackberries?

Frozen Blackberries OR Fresh Blackberries?

We took photos of different commodities in Stop & Shop near our campus. Afterwards, we put them into Adobe Illustrator to posterize them, in order to make it look less like actual photos. When printing these images out, we faced the problem of finding appropriate printing paper that works with the school’s printer, but that was easily solved, just a matter of time. The photos were then framed with photo mattes to signify the integrity of the projects. Our idea did go through many transitions and changed a lot over time. We are glad our project turned out the way it did.   Kadie Roberts and Yuci Zhou

Project #2 Update :: Raining Wall

The sound level of the surrounding environment controls how heavy the rain is.

The sound level of the surrounding environment controls how heavy the rain is. Note: this is only a GIF demonstration of the interface. 

Currently, I have worked out the interface for this project. I used a dark background color and a light color for the rain. The rain is generated by a particle system in Unity. The physics system allows me to simulate more realistic rain by creating splash effects using the die out animation for each particle, as well as bypassing any object in the interface. The other feature of the interaction is the ability to respond to the sound of the surrounding environment. The microphone could capture the sound level of the environment and pass on the parameter to the particle system. The rain would be heavier when the surrounding environment is noisy, and vise versa. I still need the technical solution to connect Microsoft Kinect to my interaction in order to make it interactive when people standing in front of it.

Project #2 Proposal :: Raining Wall

In a typical urban setting, you never know who have set foot on the brick you just stepped on, or how crowded the place have been. These are the invisible trails of urban activities, and a public domain successfully makes people feel secure in disguising themselves among the public. Catchers can not only catch the visible things, but also invisible ones. We need catchers in an urban setting to visualize the organic movement of the public – not necessarily by snatching away the secure feeling of selves in public, but only by showing the beauty of the city’s liveliness. Furthermore, such beauty would also spark individuals’ interest. Reversely, by playing around with the interactive visualization, they engage back into trivial urban activities and movements. In this project, I attempt to visualize the invisible sound and movements in a public space by creating an interactive raining wall.
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When someone approaches the raining wall.

My inspiration comes from Rain Room by Random International.

My inspiration comes from Rain Room by Random International.

The rain will dodge the outline of the person, making the interaction more playful. This catches one aspect of people’s activity around the wall: their proximity to the wall. The density of the rain depends on the noise level of the public space where the wall is located since noise is also invisible in a public space. 3 This public activity catcher combines active and passive interactions. While increasing the playfulness of the public space, it also comments on the current situation of it.

Interactive City :: Conference Post-Mortem :: Color the Can

Finally, this is how it looks like…
Screenshot of my final conference build.

Screenshot of my final conference build.

Whenever the user next to the computer claps or make a detectable huge sound relative to the environment, the first can on the rack will be randomly colored on top of its original red. Initially I only wanted to challenge the idea of having a interaction where the input is visible and touchable, whether its the traditional keyboard or mouse, or what we have experimented with, webcam. Sound, however, is linear and cannot go back once initiated. How can I visualize sound, make it touchable via another form of perception? In Hertzian Tales, we talked about radiogeneric objects, which visualize electromagnetic signals. So, how about having soundgeneric objects that visualize sound? I decided to use microphone to detect its volume. I learned about sound libraries and how to get live sound input from the book Learning Processing by Daniel Shiffman.
 Technical mechanism of my conference project: a recorder using Minim sound library. Eventually I switched to Sonia.

Technical mechanism of my conference project: a recorder using Minim sound library. Eventually I switched to Sonia.

I wished to do an arcade game in the beginning, something like whack-a-mole. Then I realized that I only have one variable to manipulate the whole interaction: the volume. Thus, I cannot even get full control over the canvas, let alone precise coordinate to hit the mole. Then the question becomes: what action, or interaction, only involves one kind of input? I thought about an assembly line.
Modern Times (1936)

Modern Times (1936)

Then I had my rough build, an assembly line of “shapes” that could be colored by user clapping around the laptop microphone. I used shapes because I wanted it to be more abstract (and also partly due to me not having an idea of the element I wanted to incorporate.)
My rough build: geometric assembly line (not really)

My rough build: geometric assembly line (not really)

Afterwards, I wanted to put some aesthetic elements into this work. I started by making a shelf, and then I thought about the Andy Warhol exhibition held at MoMA and how the museum installed the Campbell Soup Cans (1962.) Instead of hanging every picture on the wall, the museum put those pictures on racks, which according to its introduction, best imitated the style of supermarket shelfs, where the cans would usually be in real life.
The shelf that I started with.

The shelf that I started with.

Left: ordinary way of installing Campbell Soup Cans. Right: MoMA way of doing it.

Left: ordinary way of installing Campbell Soup Cans.     Right: MoMA way of doing it.

The idea of coloring the can is a challenge to consumerism. While the age of mechanization makes people on both ends of the world able to get identical products, difference becomes strangely valuable and in another way essential to the characteristic of being interesting. What if we can color the can to make them slightly different? Would it make them not identical to each other? Would it do anything to add some playfulness to this assembly line? What about other assembly lines and the endless supermarket shelves? Anyway, we are still living in a world where every(affordable)thing comes out of an assembly line.

Conference Project Update: Hit!

Interface demo

Interface demo

So far, I learned how to use the Sonia library in Processing to monitor the level of sound input from my laptop microphone. In the gif above, I try to simulate a belt that transports shapes from left to right. Every time the microphone detects a “clap”, the shape in the center will be colored, while the volume of clapping sound as a parameter to determine the color’s hue. The Sonia library allows me to get the sound level of the microphone input. I set up two thresholds to determine the action of “clapping”: if the sound level gets above a threshold, the program will consider someone is “clapping”; after clapping, if the sound level drops below a threshold, the program will convert the status from “clapping” to “not clapping”.
A screenshot of my threshold code.

A screenshot of my threshold code.

I plan to use this interface to simulate an interactive drum-hitting experience. I need to add more parameters into the program as well as work on the feedback of this interface.

Project #2 Proposal: A Break from the Ads

Want a break from the ads? Commercials are annoying. Especially when you have to watch them before your favorite songs or videos. Yes. I’m talking to you, Spotify and YouTube. For me, Spotify is a great place to get some new music and have a fresh taste. However, as a Spotify Free member who has yet not upgraded to Premium, commercials regularly turn up in the stream feed. Once, the feed said something like this:

Want a break from the ads? Watch this short video…

Then I closed the app. Nowadays, we are immersed in the context of materialism and endless advertisements. Internet services (e.g. Google, Facebook, YouTube) use ads to gain revenue, and users pay to get rid of the annoying ads. Users always want to find a break from the ads, otherwise they would not pay to get rid of them. Ads are stress-builders. They keep us constantly want things. Such desire, and even consumption, does not necessarily make us happier. And yet they exist for the endlessly growing economy, for the materialism culture and those few who benefit from it. I want to provide a way to relieve this kind of stress.
How I developed the idea for this project.

How I developed the idea for this project.

Destruction can be a outlet for stress, especially virtual ones with no consequence or damage. Because “break” can have the double meaning of “getaway” or “destruction,” such as breaking the glass, I decide to take this sentence into this project. The project is comprised of several videos that play simultaneously, and at the surface is a virtual glass-breaking interaction with mouse click. Of course, for a better simulation of breaking the glass, the click would be accompanied with a sound of cracking.
Interface demo: when you click with your mouse...

Interface demo: when you click with your mouse…

I do not know how people would interact with it in a public space nor whether it would create a magic circle. What I wish to do is to challenge the existing network established by markets and materialism. Ads are something stressful and we need a break from them. Yet they are around us anytime and everywhere: from cell phone screens to giant LED installations in Time Square, from magazine pages to film shots of certain products. We are not happier because of them. I think we need a constant reminder of the stress in order for the audiences to have greater incentive to look into new solutions in the market to make us happier.

Project #1: Baby We’re the New Romantics…

the best people in life are free

“…the best people in life are free.”

First of all, many thanks to Taylor Swift’s amazing lyric in the song New Romantics. I love her. This project is a public interactive text installation. The text will be projected on the wall of a hallway or any places that people might walk by, presumably in Heimbold. As people walk by, the word “free” would appear with a floral filling and neon tint. When they pass the installation, the word “free” will disappear again, unless someone constantly makes movement in front of the installation or someone else passes by.
(Possible installation cites for this project)

Possible installation cites for this project.

I expect people to notice the importance of “free” in this sentence, since it opens to multiple interpretations. I also expect them to be curious when they see the dormant state of the installation: a unfinished sentence. They might try and fill in the blanks in their mind (or they just know this song). As they walk by, they would know the answer, which changes color to attract their attention. What they think after the word shows up is what this artwork left them with. The behind-the-scene code for this installation is the webcam motion detector. I set up a threshold to determine whether something is moving in front the webcam. The motion detector also determines the word’s neon tint by using the average of movement as a parameter for the tint color. I was inspired by many of Jenny Holzer’s works, which all have simple typography designs but are really powerful. Besides, her uses of projection in installations make me feel the contrast between light and dark as well as the distortable nature of projection on objects. Her quotes are concise but powerful, which I think might have larger impact on audiences under the way she installs the quotes.
(How would people react to this installation?)

How would people react to this installation?

In my opinion, this project represents de Wall’s ideology of urban flaneurs. My project is hugely different from promotional materials that always appear on the walls of Heimbold. I try to address to the importance of serendipity and curiosity in a city in correspondence to the concept’s criticism of commercial applications of urban media, so that flaneurs (solitary and thoughtful strollers) can experience wonder, surprise, confusion, or dislocation (de Waal 9-10). I would be grateful if someone could stop to think about the best people they met in their lives, or whether they are free themselves. …And I would be more than grateful if someone knows where this line comes from.

Conference Project Proposal: Wow!

This is what happens when you WOW the target.

This is what happens when you WOW the target.

It is so boring to use mouses, keyboards or joysticks to play games. How about using you own voice to do so? I want to use my conference project to challenge the traditional ways of playing video games. This game is similar to the very popular arcade came whac-a-mole, but instead, people need to make a significant sound to hit the target promptly and score. This is interesting because not only will it change the way people play the game, but also change how other people interact with the players in public spaces. Player will form the goal of hitting the largest number of targets according to the instructions. Their intention will be making a significant sound, like “wow”, to hit the target as soon as it appears, and their action will be making sounds. They will perceive the state of the world by seeing whether the moles disappear or not after the sound they make. This is how they evaluate the outcome: if the targets disappear, the user succeeds in hitting them back; if not, they will form an intention to make another sound to hit the targets again. The time is limited for each round of the game, and the player’s score will be collected into a chart that will display previous players’ scores from the high to low.
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Magic circle: Traditional arcade games VS WOW!

In public spaces, arcade games usually attract attentions a lot because they are easy to play, so that it has a low barrier for entry. This game, however, will change how people watch other people playing arcade games because if the audience make a sound when they watch another person playing, the sound will cause the player to lose scores. In this magic circle, the player will make sounds and the audience will remain silent, which is the total opposite of a traditional arcade game magic circle. The interface will be a field where targets appear; in the corners there will be the score, time remaining, and the times left for player to hit itself by making unnecessary sounds. The code will mainly focus on the interactivity. I will use the setup() function to set up the background, and the draw() function will contain a timer, a random target generator, and a function to determine if the user has hit the target properly or not. A custom function will monitor the volume change of the surroundings with a proper threshold.

Networks::Castell::Connective Circles

1 When you walk into Heimbold a circle underneath your feet will appear and visually connect your personal circle to the other circles (people standing) in the room. Our program will do this by displaying lines between people. The longer you stand somewhere the larger your circle gets. When you have a conversation with someone your two circles will grow and become one circle. If there is two groups of people talking eventually their individual group circles will merge into one big circle. When someone moves away from a conversation circle their individual circle comes back, separate from the group, and the connecting lines reappear. Displaying networks to people can disrupt the networks themselves. If one’s current situation is displayed, one may intend to change the situation in order to change the display just for the sake of having fun or curiosity. Hence, when people play with the circles and the lines, they naturally disrupt their networks. Castell would like this because… It displays network. It shows you how many people you’re connected to by being in the same room and how many people you could interact with. It also includes everyone in the room, not just a selective, elite, group. He would also like this because when you are actually interacting with someone your circle merges and displays that connection. In addition, it forces people to step outside their usual network by creating a space to play and explore, as opposed to how they usually socialize under certain rules of the network. This program would end up creating conversations that wouldn’t usually happen. For example, if your group’s circle and other group’s circle combined then you would probably have a moment of interaction with them. By Kadie Roberts, Yun Mi Koh, and Yuci Zhou.