25 Feb 2013

Wooden Mirror – Daniel Rozin

I wouldn’t be surprised if other people use this as well, but it’s still an example of interactive art that I remain deeply impressed by.  Technically, the complexity of doing image processing and controlling 830 servos nearly a decade and a half ago is enough to be cool by itself.  From an artistic perspective, I like his reinterpretation of the mirror using materials with completely different reflective properties (Lambertian rather than specular, like glass).  I think the sound of the physical moving parts adds another interesting dimension as well, as it conveys auditory information that corresponds to the motion of the subject.  As an artifact, the mirror lends itself to exploration and discovery, as its initial function may not be entirely clear.  I imagine that its behavior is also somewhat specific to the installation environment and local lighting conditions, which I believe enhances its charm rather than detracts from it as is common with many projects incorporating computer vision.


Chatroulette and Omegle

I think both of these websites are interesting in that they connect (in all likelihood) complete strangers and give them free reign to either A) hold intelligent conversations, B) be jerks, or C) show their junk off.  Usually it ends up being either B or C.  In any case, I think the collective behavior reveals something about human nature with respect to anonymity and our interactions with each other through the screen.  This can be found elsewhere, like in Youtube comments, but those interactions are still centered around something else like a video or article, and they happen in clusters.  Omegle appears to have changed to be more like Chatroulette, but I think it was more interesting when it was text-only.  I think a more specific and analog question is “How does the level of anonymity (acquaintance, video, voice, text) change a person’s interaction with another?”

My favorite Chatroulette experiment happened in undergrad when we filled an auditorium with 100 people and greeted strangers over video.  A lot of people were genuinely pleased and would talk with us for some time.  Others would hurry to cover themselves up in embarrassment.


Journey – thatgamecompany

It’s a video game, but not Minecraft, surprisingly.  I haven’t played this myself, but I find the concept delightful.  The gamer plays as a robed pilgrim on a quest to a distant but visible mountain.  The game can be played completely by oneself, and the journey is relatively short, but there is a twist.  At various points in the game, the player will encounter other pilgrims who may cooperate with them to solve puzzles and point out interesting places that might have otherwise been overlooked.  These travelers are actually other humans who are playing the game at the same time, but they are chosen at random and retain their anonymity.  The only means of communication are through auditory cues and physical gestures, so there are no indicators of age, gender, real location, etc.  In a sense, this is an extreme that even Omegle doesn’t reach, yet the results are almost universally more positive.  The game has won lots of accolades for its uniqueness, though I imagine this is something that does not have much room for improvement in the future.