I am having a hard time settling on an idea for a final project. I have  several and as of yet have no particular affinity for any of them so in an attempt to think through the possibilities, I will outline them all herewith in no particular order:

#1 – Wacky Waving Tube Man

What’s not to love?

I have a dream of making a wacky waving tube man that would actually respond directionally to movement. I imagined being able to use a Kinect to map the position of a user’s limbs to the limbs of the tube man. Alas, this seems to be unachievable––at least at my current skill level. I cannot wrap my head around how it would be at all possible to control the movement of the tubes given that they function by blowing air through strategically placed holes. I can only see how to control whether a fan is on or off rather than controlling the direction of air.

I found this helpful video in my research in trying to understand how these wacky sky dancers work:

Perhaps a re-thought version would be possible: a row of tube men could perhaps be conducted by a user. Sensors would turn on each blower when proximity or movement was detected. 

#2 – Unhelpful Robot Arm

In our experimentations with our midterm, my partner Ashley and I discovered a wealth of comedy trying to the get the servos to do what we wanted. The servos themselves inherently have a ton of personality. That combined with the unexpected reactions they would have to our code and sensors delighted me to no end. How is it that a simple servo with a stick attached to its horn could be so funny? I would be interested in exploring the concept of character and personality within inanimate objects further. 

In the spirit of clown dilemmas and puppetry, I imagine creating a servo controlled robot arm that prevents the user from doing whatever it is they want to do. Perhaps the user is trying to put money in a donation box and the arm blocks them. Perhaps it starts to feel guilty at what it’s done and the blocking motion transforms into something more tender, like wanting to hold hands. I’m unclear if it would be better to try and pre-program an interaction or experiment with sensors and see what sort of reactions I get and choreograph something from there, applying the principle of designing our interactions around the needs of the sensors we learned in our midterm.

I envision this more of a performance than an installation or stand-alone object. I would be designing it for me alone. This raises the question: is that something worth pursuing? It would be delightful to have an automaton collaborator but why create an shoddy facsimile when having an actual puppeteer would be easier and better? Should I just design a puppet? If so, who would puppet it?

#3 – Portal Gun IRL

I’m fairly certain I will not be doing this one but it makes me happy to think about so I’m writing it down.

This is more of a proof of concept than anything else and would probably be best paired with a fabrication assignment. I would like to recreate this in real life:

A recreation of the game’s portal gun:

..would activate two “portals”––an entrance and an exit, yellow and blue, on opposite walls from the user holding the gun, thus mimicking the portal gun from the game above. The challenge would be in setting up the space so that the effect feels real and seamless. The portals would be screens built into a wall so that it would not be obvious that there were screens there at all. Hidden cameras would be very strategically placed at the rights angles in order to mimic the view through the portals. It would have to be a tightly controlled environment. I’m not even sure it’s possible, but it sure is fun to think about!

#4 – Interactive Tarima

On a heavier note, the refugee crisis at the U.S.’s southern border looms heavily on my mind these days. It would be nice to find a way to respond in my work at ITP as well as continue my exploration of themes present in my projects from last semester: music and action. I would take the songs of Woody Guthrie and the Mexican folks music tradition son jarocho as jumping off points.

Son jarocho that uses percussive dancing (zapateado) on a wooden platform (tarima). I was once at a concert of one of my favorite bands (Las Cafeteras) that use the style and was struck with this powerful sensation during a cover of the Guthrie classic, “This Land Is Your Land“: that their dancing and singing and playing would literally raise the dead, tumble barricades, and summon a new reality into being right in front of me. It was a good show.

My idea would be to create a tarima that when danced upon, it opens a door. Or brings down a wall. One could call it a “jericho” dance. (A group I volunteer for, New Sanctuary Coalition, organizes monthly “jericho walks” around immigrant detention centers.) Maybe a servo would be connected to a door and its angle would be mapped to the level of noise being produced. Maybe a I could animate a projection of a wall that would disappear or crumble with each impact. 

Beyond solidifying the methods by which this might work, I would also want to feel it out to make sure I wasn’t forcing anything or imposing a “message” instead of finding an organic way of playing with the concept.

November 7, 2018

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