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Posted by David - March 21, 2007 - 21:08

The Aesthetic of the "Default"

Upon reflection it appears that we have unequestioningly worked within a number of aesthetic assumptions. Even if we do not, ah, rise to the occasion and break new ground in generated aesthetics I may as well comment on what we have(n't) done.

  • The black background:
  • The default "canvas" of computer graphics is black (though sometimes a 50% gray). This is natural enough because blackness is the absense of light. If we have not commanded a pixel to activate, it does not. But what if it were otherwise, why should we constrain our graphics generation to default assumptions?

    To compare, a painter's canvas is white, though historically the gesso on a canvas was not necessarily as blindingly white as it can be. Some artists will mix pigments with their gesso to give a different color to the 'field' and perhaps this allows them to approach their painting with an entirely different mood than that of the "blank white paper". The walls of art galleries are also painted white. Sure, it's a neutral color, but are is gray and black. White has a high albedo, therefore makes for a lot of ambient light from relatively little illumination (though I would argue that most rooms are far over-illuminated). Compare this with the lack of ambient light in the black-painted VR lab designed to maximize the relative brightness of the projected image.

    If we drew our agents on white instead of black, the default image in our space would essentially be a large, bright rectangle. I don't think this would lend itself to a "tactful" use of the space, but perhaps we could use a very dark color for the background:

    The light color is way too washed out. I think the dark purple is nice, gives it a night-time feeling. I shall have to try it on the big screen. And you can also see in these shots a new agent rendering function, which brings us to...

  • The "OpenGL look"
  • There is a particular "look" of OpenGL primitives in graphics demos that I really hope we're avoiding. Sheelagh did say something positive to that effect, but ... still, anyone really familiar with OpenGL can probably name the calls we used for each visualization, though Andrew's "Starhoods" may pass the test best as he -was- asked how they were done. Still, there is very much a fireworks show feeling to the whole thing, you know, bright points of light glittering and moving around. I'd like to get away from this "thousand points of light" look as much as we can. But it's so easy, and so .. pretty.

And with the project deadline fast approaching I fear that we don't have nearly as much time as we'd like to split between implementing new features and polishing old ones. Suffice to say, it feels like the technical demands (read: sci/tech) are taking precedence over conceptual development (art). But then the first semester was easily dominated by conceptual matters with a deal of technical effort siphoned off onto the mini-projects.

Modulating Input

The signal to noise ratio with the webcam input is such that I don't think that the expression of the interactor's movement much matters at all - yes, technical demands over conceptual. Still, we've had many suggestions about how participants can be given a context for their interaction with the system.

  • Lines could be put on the floor with tape designating where a person should and shouldn't move. Such authoritarianism may put people into a restrictive mindset, though, or maybe they could use the 'bounds' as an area where permission is given to allow expression. I smell a user-study.
  • It's been said that a dancer would think of movement in entirely different ways than geeks like us, and to see how a dancer would interface with the system could tell us something about how it should see -- unfortunately, with regard to the previously stated problem, I don't think the system would make a distinction between a dancer and one of us jumping around like a fool.
  • We could use props, like IR-reflective/emitting balls or sticks. This evokes the "magic phallus" idea I recall bringing up in our original proposal presentation at Banff. And it'd probably be a bad idea to throw balls around in the VR lab; Still, interesting.

And there's no damn power supplies for the IR lights

Looks like it's a trip to Radioshack and/or Home Despot. Enough said.


The mob still wants a performance out of us because watching us talk and get into our project is apparently irresistably amusing. I'm not sure what a good time would be to do this, though. And in a way, every time we present the project it is like a performance and perhaps we could play up ourselves in the roles.

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