Chasing Shadows – An Interactive Installation

Chasing Shadows is an interactive display which builds on the project which my fellow peers and I worked on in 2014, Equilibrium. The outcome of the last project mainly worked with a 2 Dimensional data stream, ie. a video feed coming from a webcam, for this project, we wanted to use an Xbox Kinect in order to drive a different kind of interaction. (see video below)

Using the Kinect had immediate benefits, allowing for human skeleton recognition and the ability to extract depth information from the data stream, so we put some of this to work. We tried using processing to create an implementation of this, but ultimately we had to go back to rhino + grasshopper + firefly as it was the system we were most familiar with.

Our first implementation of the system created a head tracking system which would move the projected camera accordingly. We placed the interaction inside a virtual box in order to try and convince and show the user that they had some degree of control over the environment, a key part in the success of the system.

The other key part of this system was the representation of the human figure. The Kinect by default can spit out a skeleton, but for us, this was far too literal of a representation of the manifestation. So we came up with the idea of the materialisation of the digital body. As the video will show, the human slowly assimilates into the projected environment, while full while they have control over the vantage point of the box, the body slowly assimilates, followed by the different body parts as the user initialises them. We felt that this produced a much clearer and more interesting language about the rift between the digital and physical realm, and teased the idea of our understanding analogue and digital environments.

The human glitches into existence, taking the form of something distinctly intangible, a temporal being, slowly gaining clarity as the user explores their new digital realm. This installation ultimately becomes a dialogue between computer and human, it posits our notion of being, querying the validity of the human’s role in the interactive environment. We aim to discover how the digital interaction can begin to inform the human’s actions whilst simultaneously receiving influence from the human’s actions. The perceived prioritisation of the digital is what Richard Coyne is sentimental towards. Coyne’s ‘technoromantic’ outlook on the relationship is intensely relevant when applied to installation design; his text explores the idea of subverting conventional design methodologies and in doing so, provokes notions of identity, interpretation, and space/time. Typically, the human ends in the sense that they are no longer able to have influence over an entity – the obsessive human need to control everything within its power is strange, at best. By giving more power to the unknown, we are digitally counselling the human – teaching it the ability to trust in an entity it has no trust in.

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