Crazy about interaction

This post is intended to be a brief guide for understanding how artists, engineers and other stakeholders related with creativity and technology start commercial projects to create a sort of meta -gadgets: Tools for connecting and interacting among software/hardware apps with experimental purposes for all kinds of applications, both artistic and directly commercial. You can walk into some of these devices while taking a stroll through LABoral, I hope you can identify them. There is an interesting story behind some of them, beyond the technical aspects.

Published: Feb 09, 2015

By Román Torre (@RTorre)
http://www.romantorre.com

There is an intermediate step between the research and production stage of interactive pieces, whether artistic or commercial, where the process is very interesting, although not as eye-catching as the final result of most of these installations, audiovisual shows and other type of events that now-a-days use technology to create visual concepts and effects that sometimes are impressive. In this stage, there is many people that had initially an interest in the potential of the technological tools for creativity and other purposes (simply because their profile is related or tends to be with engineering or business), who decide that they feel more comfortable working in the production of these tools, laying the bases with their potential for subsequent works by other artists or home-made experiments carried out using these new and coveted gadgets.

Among these profiles there are many users, communities of stakeholders or interactive studies that gathered the funds to design it, for instance, by means of crowdfunding at web sites like Kickstarter and, of course, there are also big corporations. Firms that have resolutely provided technical and financial resources after identifying the interest of users for this kind of products that are not a final tool. Thanks to all of them, now-a-days there are pieces that some years ago could not exist or that simply could not be carried out with a very limited budget.

The Kinect sensor, of which we have heard so much, is one of the most popular gadgets among visual artists that wish to turn their pieces more interactive that has not been able to succeed in its original use as a sensor for console videogames.

And why do I call many of these devices Meta-gadgets?...If we take a look at the definition on wikipedia for the term Gadget, we find a comment in the annex indicating that in the mid XXth century, Lacan refers to them as “consumer items produced and offered as “wishes” in the capitalist logic – which includes the scientific logic and technology in general” … and, in fact, many of these tools or components, have been bought by thousands of beta-testers willing to test their possibilities that have raised so many expectations. On many occasions they have ended up buried in drawers, because there is not an actual need to use them, or because they have become obsolete because of the various product updates carried out in a short period, thus following the use-and-discard capitalist logic of an object whose final goal takes advantage of the consumers will to own it and test/own its technology rather than exploiting its potential for more serious purposes.

Trying to be more positive, I prefer to think that, in most cases, these items end up being part of the educational baggage of many users or, in the best cases, they become crucial for certain installations or experiments, including scientific ones, that result, in turn, in the creation of other type of more sophisticated gadgets or interfaces. These devices are use by these users to connect hardware and software, enabling the access to their parameters in all possible directions and in many different ways (generally intangible) from the everyday “keyboard and mouse” that was a standard in the digital world before the arrival of touchscreens.

Crazy about interaction

The image perfectly illustrates how a device previously used as an interface for an installation, is now part of a 3D home-made scanner that generates three-dimensional volumes that can then be printed in a 3D printer like the ones that exist in fabLAB Asturias de LABoral.


Leap Motion is one of the most representative of these meta-gadgets. This device, launched in 2010, operates in theory very similarly to the Kinect sensor, although with a reduced size and mainly oriented to detecting the movement of the hands in space. In the previous video we can see how it is used to manage a different device like a home-made drone.

In 2014 there were already half a million units sold and just in youtube we can find 200.000 references of the device, where we can see home-made experiments as magical as this one, toghether with the old technical application to generate holographic effects called Pepper Ghost.


Emotiv is one of these gadgets with a more scientific than recreational orientation that, nevertheless, have been taken by some artists to their own field. In the following example, Varvara Guljajeva, Mar Canet and Sebastian Mealla, use this device to register the brain waves generated by listening to the Golberg Variations to later generate fabric patterns.

As a conclusion for this guide or review, and in line with Emotiv, very recently Myo . Gesture Arm Control has been released to the market, a sensor that “listens” to your muscles so that, by performing certain actions with your arm, you can control the devices that you choose. Here you can see a video showing how it works as we listen to a detailed explanation by Thalmic Labs of how they started to manufacture it from its earliest prototypes. It is certainly interesting.


As a conclusion for this guide or review, and in line with Emotiv, very recently Myo . Gesture Arm Control has been released to the market, a sensor that “listens” to your muscles so that, by performing certain actions with your arm, you can control the devices that you choose. Here you can see a video showing how it works as we listen to a detailed explanation by Thalmic Labs of how they started to manufacture it from its earliest prototypes. It is certainly interesting.

 

 

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