IxD and Assistive Technology at UNSW Art & Design

Professional Portfolio – Week 14

Professional Portfolio – Week 14
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Classmates interacting with All Is Domain

This will be the last uni-related post of the year (for my undergraduate degree anyway), but not the last update for this project. The interactive table will be exhibited as part of the COFA exhibition, The Annual, at CarriageWorks next month and needs a few adjustments after the feedback during assessment this week.

By reading over the shrinking posts on this blog during the past month or so, it’s probably no surprise that I’ve been busy with the interactive table project (titled All Is Domain). The scale and complexity of the work is far beyond anything I’ve ever attempted on my own and accordingly needed a lot more time devoted to it (just ask my partner).

Having said that, I’m proud of the way it has come together. This is by no means a polished, commercially-ready work – more a solid prototype for a system that could be evolved in some really interesting ways. Just imagine a 10m square sand pit, where people could literally dig with shovels for interactive treasure!

In broad terms, the system works like this: sensors on each side of the table let the computer know when someone is present. When a person is next to the table, the camera shows the depth of silica on the table by projecting topographical lines upon it. These lines change in real-time to show interaction. There are several visual cues, ‘hidden’ at depth in the silica. When they are revealed, they trigger a sound event – as if the interaction has uncovered a piece of history from the space.

The entire system is built with Max/MSP/Jitter, and relies on information coming from an infrared camera within the table, and proximity sensors connected to an Arduino – also inside the table.

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Stop-motion setup of the table. Note the moving projection – tape does not make successful rigging.

As I’ve pointed out, there’s still more work to be done, but now it’s really just a matter of fine tuning – the functionality of the project will remain the same. The most important thing that came from the assessment of All Is Domain, was being able to observe how people interact with the work – before they’re told how it functions. Obviously, I won’t be able to stand by my project during the exhibition, explaining to people how to use it. Therefore, creating an interface that is intuitive is important.

It was interesting to see how some people were extremely tentative about physically touching the surface – as if they needed assurance that they were allowed to do so. Whilst others immediately shoved their hands in and flung the silica around, too quickly for the system to respond with feedback. These are the broad responses that I need to have the system embrace if I want the work to be successful in an exhibition environment.

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Classmates interacting with All Is Domain
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Classmates interacting with All Is Domain

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Also on the to-do list is getting the Max/MSP/Jitter patch into a more modular, efficient and logical format. There’s quite a lot going on inside of it, which can probably be recycled for future projects. However, in the meantime I will make the code available for anyone who’s interested – much of it is based upon the coding of others generous enough to share their ideas, and I believe in having the same attitude.

Also a part of this subject, was producing a portfolio to accompany my work at the exhibition. As is the nature of my undergraduate degree, this has all been building up to “getting a job”, and so showing the industry people in attendance what you’re capable of is considered quite important.

However, being the stubborn individual that I am, I approached the portfolio differently. I’m not a fan of show reels on DVD, and so putting together a body of time-based work in a portfolio doesn’t make a lot of sense to me – anyone who’s interested can just as easily click onto this blog, or Flickr photostream. For me, the portfolio was about creating a memento of the past 3 years of my work. Something tangible that I can keep like a photo album, and as removed from my generally digital world as possible.

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Portfolio pages of All Is Domain
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Portfolio pages of ViewMaster project

Printed at Blurb, I’m pretty happy with the result. The pages feel a little brief next to the hard cover, but overall it came through as a nice package. The portfolio covers not only my interactive and time-based work, but also some of the print/screen graphics I’ve done in the past few years.

So for now, that’s uni wrapped up (I might post some more details on the electronics side of All Is Domain soon). Three years totally whizzed by, but I had the opportunity to produce a fairly large body of work that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to. This course has also given me a great deal more confidence and direction to pursue interactive/physical work, which I’m definitely grateful for.



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