— USC, CTIN 544

May, 2014 Monthly archive

An oldie but a goodie, you’ve probably seen this one before if you’ve ever studied any kind of contemporary art history. Long before Eddo Stern’s Tekken Torture Tournament (2001) and Wafaa Bilal’s Domestic Tension  (2007) There was Stelarc’s Ping Body. In this performance art piece, the artist Stelarc connected himself to a computer based muscle simulation system that was connected to an internet website. Users could then remotely control and move the body of the artist. As you can see from the video, this resulted in the disturbing “dance.”

What continues to fascinate me about this piece is how Stelarc recognized the disembodiment that the internet offered even back in those early days and literally used his own body to embody what that could mean. As certain trends in technology are moving towards a more multi-sensory and body-centric design (e.g. touch, gesture) it is interesting to look over the recent past and examine how artists bring to our attention what technology can engender.


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This is a Pryo board, created by Sune Nielsen from the YouTube channel Fysikshow Aarhus. It is a grid of flames produced by 2,500 gas burners.  It operates on the same principle as a Ruben’s Tube.

A Ruben’s tube is a pipe, perforated with holes along one side, that flammable gas is pumped through.  When the gas is lit and a sound is played through one end, the sound waves create distinctive patterns on flames along the pipe.

A pryo board operates on the same principle, just in a grid instead of a line.

I find the whole project super fun. It’s beautiful, it’s scientific, you can dance to it, and best of all, its on fire! On the visuals alone it’s compelling, but its lovely that is also turns something invisible and intangible (sounds waves) into something we can see (but maybe not touch).As always, I like the almost magical nature of this, the transmutation of sound into fire.

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Philip Worthington created Shadow Monsters using a light box, two projectors, a camera, and a computer running Java and Processing code, as well as visual recognition software. Participants move their hands and bodies in front of the light box, and teeth, fins, tentacles, and other additions appear attached to their limbs, accompanied by monstrous sound effects.



I was fascinated by how Shadow Monsters took a familiar, playful concept from childhood — moving one’s hands in front of the beam of a flashlight, casting animal-shaped shadows on the wall — and used digital technology to create additions that would be impossible for a single person to create. Although the monsters created might seem grotesque, they have a playful and imaginative energy that makes them seem non-threatening. The exhibit invites play and experimentation, from adults as well as children. While technology may sometimes seem to stifle creativity, Worthington uses technology to encourage and give new life to the creatures of our imaginations.


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In 2002 Capcom made a bold move and released an extremely expensive game. Steel Battalion. Priced at $200 it came with both the game and a 40-button controller.

Steel Battalion Controller

Now considered a collectors item it is seeing new life as people work to find new uses for this strange relic from the early turn of the century. I particularly enjoyed this guy who sort of has it working as part of his studio kit.


As new technology continually emerges it feels like old tech is being pushed to the sidelines too quickly. New controllers feel less a giant step forward and more simply a new iteration of an existing device. The PS4 controller while nice, doesn’t make me want to go out and buy 3 more at $60 dollars a piece. I would happily use my PS3 controllers in conjunction with PS4 controllers to round my controller count out to 4, but companies seemingly willfully refuse to allow this. With the motion controller revolution seeming to fade into the past and conventional controllers (and God forbid, touch interfaces) coming to the fore, I find it exciting to see old technologies revisited and repurposed. I would love to play Titanfall on this giant controller and I’m excited to see there are people out there working to allow things like this.

Speaking of which. These guys made Arduino based eject button for Titanfall.


Ultimately I think the original Steel Battalions controller’s biggest weakness was its inability to be used with other games and I’m excited to see people try to overcome this hurdle. Now I just have to find a controller for myself…


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Last year , Jun 2013, in a robot lab at TEDGlobal, Raffaello D’Andrea demoed his flying quadcopters. A quadcopter is a multirotor helicopter that is lifted and propelled by four rotors. The use two sets of identical fixed pitched propellers alternating each one’s RPM to control lift and torque. In the demo D’Andrea demonstrated how his drones were able to play catch, balance objects and work as a unit solving problems with algorithms that help them learn and make  decisions on the fly (quite literally!)

The QuadCopter Demo


The vast majority of applications for the innovations made in flying robotics sadly yield quadcopters and their counterparts as little more than “man-servants”. Aiding humanity to make our work more efficient. But I see a huge potential for play. D’Andrea’s quadcopters are completely interactive, able to respond to their environment and our actions. Incredibly, they are able to adapt their behaviors, to reflect the demands of their environment (i.e. glass balancing). Another interesting feature is that Robotic Quadcopters can behave autonomously as well as work together. Quadcopters, for me, vaguely mimic social patterns of whales or dolphins which have been known to engage in play. While a Quadcopter may never decide (on its own) to pick up a ball and hurl it at a person, the astounding fact remains that it is able to recognize this behavior and participate. I’m imagining two teams of quadcopters slingshot a tennis ball back and forth toward one another.

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APP is a Dutch thriller/horror film which utilizes second screen mobile devices. The story follows Anna a student at the University of Amsterdam who wakes up one morning to discover a new app has been inexplicably added to her smartphone. Initially the app, IRIS, is helpful and clever but soon begins behaving mysteriously, answering personal questions it shouldn’t know the answers to, and sending inappropriate images to her contacts. When Anna cannot simply delete the app, IRIS sets into motion a series of fatal events.


The silly premise, essentially Siri turns evil robot killer, does however present an opportunity to test second screen storytelling.  Horror films have often been the testing ground for trying out new technology for storytelling purposes (anyone remember Friday the 13th part 2 3d!). The visceral and simple nature of horror films allow storytellers a way to introduce new technologies quickly. This new tech appears gimmicky however the audience does begin to digest a new lexicon for storytelling. We wouldn’t have Gravity and Hugo without My Bloody Valentine 3d and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.

It unclear how effective the film APP really is. Many of the second screen interactions show  texts between supporting characters, Facebook updates, and additional angles that look like B roll outtakes. The film has only been released in  the Netherlands (with a UK release later this year) and the reviews have mostly been poor. However these reviews are often complaining about the poor story rather than the implementation of an additional device. Many note the potential for second screen storytelling.





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    Machines for Making Nothing #2: How Time Flies (2011) from Samson Young on Vimeo.


  • The project I’m introducing is Machines for Making Nothing (Series I), by Samson Young — composer, sound artist and media artist.
  • I first saw this tiny installation work four years ago, so i guess it was made around /before 2010.
  • it is a series of tiny electornic object using most basic design.
  • As simple as it is, it introduce me the world of media art for the first time. to quote Samson – “Interactivity is seductive.” People long to be hypnotized by flying icons, the pleasurable vibration of haptic feedbacks or with no reasons. The piece somehow also reminds me the relationship of ‘art exercise’  and ‘art work’; the necessarity of the concepts behind certain work; the gestures in human-machine interaction; and the potential of media/media techology as an art field.
  • Machines for Making Nothing #2: How Time Flies (2011) from Samson Young on Vimeo.




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The Concertronica is a DIY controller instrument that is based around the design of a traditional concertina. It is the invention of a friend from the UK, a musician who goes by the stage name ‘Crewdson’. He produces experimental electronic music, and has collaborated with successful experimental musicians like Matthew Herbert. During his live performances, he creates sounds from machinery, found items, manipulated vocals and saxophone which he samples and manipulates through his idiosyncratic electronic setup, controlling sounds with everything from a playstation joystick to MIDI motorcycle handlebars. He is a tinkerer and has been making whacky controllers ever since I first met him.

Concertronica 2


Resonance FM – Crewdson & Cevanne – Live improv session and interview


The ButtonsThe Concertronica is by far his most sophisticated invention. Each of the two ends are made from an old concertina case. Each has 10 momentary push buttons, made from scratch using wooden dowels and then stained with wood varnish. The buttons sit on analog ‘push to make’ switches. The ‘bellows’ action which uses air, is replaced by strings on a pulley system that has been hacked out of some old gametrak playstation controllers. There are four strings, each giving a distance measurement as well as an X/Y position, thus 3 parameter readings for each string. At the base of each string are a pair of RGB LEDs which change color with distance and X/Y position.Arduino + Connections

The analog signal is carried from one end to the other using a 26 D-sub connection for which he created and soldered a custom cable. The instrument houses an Arduino in one end, and is powered by USB. On the software side, MAX/MSP converts the incoming signal into MIDI, and then sends it to Ableton Live.




Music Tech Fest 2013: Concertronica Demo

A vast majority of electronic music is performed live on a computer, and usually what the crowd sees is the artist ‘doing stuff’ behind a computer. They seldom get to see the MIDI controllers that are being used, or the buttons, sliders and knobs that the artist manipulates. This makes the viewing experience quite bland, and thus the inclusion of stage theatrics, live visuals, dancers and performers and high quality production design has made a great difference to the way we consume music in a live concert setting. Although everything around the electronic musician has changed and evolved, most electronic musicians continue to perform live in the same dull manner as before – triggering samples, loops, drum patterns etc from a computer using standard MIDI controllers. I think this project does a great job in trying to bring back the feeling of actually playing a musical instrument. Using the buttons and the pulley system, Crewdson manipulates the same data in the same software program, but instead of working on his computer, he performs all actions on his Concertronica. Essentially, he has mapped all the standard controls he uses onto this instrument.

Concertronica 3

At the same time I think the instrument itself is an amazing modern take on an old musical instrument. Although it uses different mechanics to produce sounds, the actions performed when playing both instruments are quite similar. It was made at home with scrap/found materials, which makes it affordable and doable in most scenarios. I think in the future we will see whole electronic bands or ensembles using whacky DIY instruments to produce electronic sounds live, and this is a great direction for electronic music production to go in.

Crewdson & Cevanne – “Butter Hill”

Concertronica 1

The Concertronica has been used for live concerts with William Adamson as well as a performance of Terry Riley’s “In C” with Matthew Herbert at London’s Barbican Center. It is now the centerpiece for a new collaboration with another British musician, Cevanne, to produce contemporary British folk music.

Additional Links:

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Author: Raphael Pluvinage (http://pluvinage.eu/

Clients: Class project in the semester course of Francois Azambourg and Clementine Chambon, targeting all gamers.

Link: NOISY JELLY from Raphaël Pluvinage on Vimeo.

Release: February, 2012

Technology: Arduino, Max/Msp, capacitive sensor, speaker

Noisy Jelly is a game, although it appears to be more of a toy, where the player has to cook and shape their own musical material, based on colored jelly, into their own custom musical instrument. The game board is a capacitive sensor, and the variable shape, salt concentration, and strength of finger contact determines the audio signal produced.



I selected Noisy Jelly for our second Look Around You assignment because I think this is a fascinating way of bringing the generation of audio or music into a physical space, and makes me consider what boundaries we may explore pushing to further entangle our experience of music with additional sensory experiences beyond simply hearing audio. I love this project because it opens the door that much more to the idea of creating your own custom musical instruments, tailor-made to your liking and speaking to/representing you that much more as an artist. A potential idea I’m currently entertaining to start work on this next semester is to develop an interactive project based around custom instrument input devices, generative music, and social dynamics and spacing particularly in clubs and festivals. At the very least, I’ve always had an interest in how new procedural audio systems could be created, and for a student project I found this to be both inspiring and of quite professional quality.

The weakness of this system at face value is a lack of understanding of how the shape and salt concentration of each jelly input device determines the sound quality heard when the gamer provides input, but this is hopefully addressed within a user manual. Also, does the musical jelly material deteriorate over time?

This reminds me a lot of other earlier attempts to create interactive music when new technologies like touch screens first became widely available and used in projects: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qmmdGonQW4.

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The Sand Noise Device (their name, not mine) was created by Team SND, consisting of Jay Van Dyke, Devin Dominguez, James Saxon, and Matt Roads. All the team members are second-year master’s students in the Cal State East Bay Multimedia Graduate program, and are using this project as their graduate thesis. They have been working on it since September 2013; possibly earlier.

In addition to the box of sand, it utilizes an overhead projector, a Kinect, and “internally lit tangible objects” (the creators don’t describe what’s inside them, so it could be anything from a simple LED+switch to a full on microcontroller like an Arduino). On the software side, they use Pure Data for music synthesis and openFrameworks (a C++ library) for the simulation and Kinect interfacing.

I chose this project because I think it is an excellent implementation of interactive music. In my opinion, it’s of the same caliber as more well known interactive music systems like Otomata and Circuli.  The rules of the system are fairly intuitive, and having the music style be more ambient than melodic/beat-driven allows the project to avoid problems with rhythm that tend to plague interactive music projects. My only major criticism of the project is in regard to the lack of user control over pitch; it makes it far more difficult for a user to curate the music when they can only control timing of different sounds and not the sounds themselves.

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