Digital Media Labs Residency technical advisor, Hull Oct 2010

[update: pasted in notes from talk below]

Technical advisor for the Digital Media Labs Hull touch screen art commissioning residency.

Digital Media Labs offers ten chosen artists a week-long residency as part of a commissioning process for a touch screen art work for the new multi-million pound NHS Hull Wilberforce Health Centre. This commission and Lab will be a key part of their innovative and ambitious arts programme for the new city centre multi-use building. – about

Ran a series of workshops and talks throughout the week demonstrating the potential and limitations of touch screens. Worked with other resident artists to help them produce functional demos of touch-screen pieces. Predominantly used Processing.

A winding journey through technology talk notes.

Most useful Processing code snippets for touch screens are:

noCursor();

size(screen.width, screen.height);

and remembering that you can run in presentation mode full screen on the second monitor if you change run.display in the preferences file linked from the processing preferences page. void mouseMoved() { } was also handy, as touching the screen often triggers a move rather than a click.

A winding journey through technology talk notes:

Trying to find nice examples of touch screen art feels hard to me. A few projects come to mind that don’t use the technology we are focusing on necessarily, but do introduce nice modes of interaction and aesthetics.

  • Khronos Projector – timelapse seems to lend itself to well to touch. Alvaro Cassinelli & Masatoshi Ishikawa’s morphable ventures through time and the timelapse ideas that proceeded it are outlined nicely in Golan’s Slit-Scan review.
  • Manual Input Workstation – Golan Levin & Zachary Lieberman’s high-tech, low-tech combination of Over Head Projector and computer vision feels like very fluid interaction interaction and stylish visual output.
  • PinPongPlus – this MIT Media Lab project came up in conversation as an example of touch as secondary to an interaction, and also for the use of microphones to detect points of contact – a way of making a window in to a touch interface for example.
  • Urine Control – a touch interface in the loosest sense, and the urinal game the She-Pee was made for. While the stream is constant, players can adjust direction to find their desired target.

We then moved on to a number of technical elements, each one triggering an association in some way with the next.

  • Shadow Cameras – we were talking about whether you could look round corners in a photo ‘like in the movies’. It is, under some conditions, possible to re-calculate the view of a scene from another light source. Not quite round corners, but close.
  • Optical Emission Security – the images on computer screens can be reconstructed under some conditions – which really could be viewing round a corner. This example relies on CRT monitors like the old van Eck eavesdropping, but other methods of diffusely reflected screen light have also been investigated (couldn’t remember the link).
  • Sneakey – this telephoto-key-duplication project led on from the discussion of how the things we assume are secure, may not be as technology advances.
  • Kryptonite Pen Key – as did this classic example of lateral thinking and a low-tech equivalent of bump-keying with the end of a bic ballpoint pen.
  • Yellow Dots – the idea of snooping led us to the Yellow Dots that computers can easily recognise, but humans tend to miss. You can find them on your bank notes in little constellations, and most commercial printers sneak yellow dot fingerprints on to each page you print.
  • Fingerprints – we often consider the uniqueness of our fingerprints as a useful shortcut for proving who we are. As do governments when planning their advanced ID documents. Many countries now include RFID chips containing biometric data derived from facial features and fingerprints. However, it has been proposed that it may be possible to reverse engineer a fingerprint from the biometric data. Or your fingerprints may be obtained some other way. The prints can then be etched using standard circuit board kits, and made in to fake fingers using melted gummy bears for access to secure offices, etc.
  • RFID Guardian – radio frequency ID chips are designed to be read from only a few centimetres away, but they can be interrogated from much farther away with the appropriate scanner. The RFID Guardian is designed to actively intercept all requests for information from the RFID chips in your pockets, and only allow through the ones you allow.
  • Airpwn – the RFID Guardian is a user approved man-in-the-middle attack, intercepting the communication between chip and reader. Normally, however, man-in-the-middle attacks tend to be more malicious. Airpwn was an experiment at defcon 12 where a laptop listened to the open traffic over the wifi network and transmitted answers louder in return. They tricked the laptops around them in to loading their versions of web pages, but with details swapped maliciously. In particular, goatse was used to replace every image. More recently, the FireSheep plugin has demonstrated how open to interception internet traffic can be.
  • Mary 101 – if FireSheep lets someone co-opt your online identity, what about a more fundamental appropriation? I like this work from Tony Ezzat, Gadi Geiger and Tomaso Poggio that calculates suitable mouth shapes from existing video to fit faces to new spoken word. It allows experimenters to make videos of people say things they never said, and can even make you sing Korean Pop.
  • Human Cycles – in a final, slightly unrelated point, we chatted about Louis von Ahn’s great adventures in motivating humans to contribute help to things computers can’t do well, and inparticular the classic ESP Game, where people guess words to describe images – playing a game for fun, but also labelling the images as a by-product.

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