Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Research on Light as a Material

The Texture of Light is research on the lighting principles for life feed video metamorphosis in public space using the reflection of light on transparent materials.

Material Background

Research on light properties on transparent materials.

The first property of light we consider is reflection from a surface, such as that of a mirror. When light is reflected off any surface, the angle of incidence is always equal to the angle of reflection. The angles are always measured with respect to the normal to the surface. This can give us a modification in the geometry of a represented image if the normal is twisted.

I also researched on color transformation and color density of an image through transparent materials. Refraction is the bending of light as it passes between materials of different optical density. The formula of the index of Refraction of a material is the ratio of the speed of light in vacuum to the speed of light in that material: n = c/v where v is the speed of light in the material.
The more dense the material, the slower the speed of light in that material. In Texture of Light a extra piece of transparent material on top of the Plexiglas lense makes the speed of light in that material slower, then less bright. That explains the opacity of the final colors. Also the change in speed and wavelength at the boundary between two materials causes light to change direction.

I have looked at the diffraction phenomena to transform light passing through transparent materials. Diffraction is the apparent "bending" of light waves around obstacles in its path.

Diffraction of waves through a slit.

This bending is due to Huygen's principle, which states that all points along a wave front act as if they were point sources. Thus, when a wave comes against a barrier with a small opening, all but one of the effective point sources are blocked, and the light coming through the opening behaves as a single point source, so that the light emerges in all directions, instead of just passing straight through the slit.

My original idea was to transform a picture by applying different transparent sheets between the captured image and the projected final image.

Inspiring research

Dr Saul Griffith who graduated from the MIT Media Lab has reconstructed magnifying lenses using liquid plastic.

Movie presenting his implementation

This work is used by the Low Cost Eyeglasses enterprise whose goal is to design eyeglass systems that make eyeglasses inexpensive and easy to purchase.
Movie maker Patrick Bokanowski seems to have used water, oil, glass material on his movies experiments as seen in Au Bord du Lac (1993). I believe that cinema offers an interpretation, a point of view of reality. What if this point of view was due to light transformation? Bokanowski experimental cinema work has inspired me to analyze this type of imagery that presents a distortion of light and offers a possible reinterpretation of its meaning.

Screenshot of Au Bord du Lac (1993) by Patrick Bokanowski.

Experimentations with transparent materials
To instantly transform light on life feed video into the public space, I had the choice of applying mathematical formulas onto the captured digital visuals or re-discovering the direct use of light. The tangible potential of direct use of light onto Plexiglas lenses and transparent materials offers two main options that are key in this project. One is the collaboration in the public space facilitated by tangible means. The other one is the improvisation and experimentation space offered by such tangible and mechanical system.I also had to decide if I wanted to work on still or moving visual captures. I have realized that transforming a still image is not as powerful as the moving image metamorphosis. One can easily recompose the still image by understanding its light distortions. However, by applying lighting principles on a moving image, the mental re-composition is difficult thus the re-interpretation of the unknown is very fascinating. The reality becomes a painting, a moving painting.
A series of experiments with transparent materials allows me to analyze video metamorphosis. During these experiments, I have used water on clear plastic, shower gel, polyoptic 1410 clear plastic, crystal clear flex: clear flexible, material that melts on high temperature and dries quickly within average temperature.
The following are screenshots of videos documenting a selection of material tests.

A drop of water onto a clear rigid plastic sheet

The video camera is still, the drop of water is moving

Transparent shower gel onto a clear rigid plastic sheet

The video camera is still, the rigid clear plastic sheet moves, the shower gel stays still

Transparent shower gel onto a clear rigid plastic sheet

The video camera moves with the rigid clear plastic sheet

Polyoptic 1410 clear plastic onto a clear rigid plastic sheet

The video camera moves with the rigid clear plastic sheet

The shower gel has a life on its own: moves, changes texture & density over time. This particularity allows more irregularity in the transformed image thus the final transformed image resembles a painting. Also, the mapping between the original image and its final transformation is harder to perceive. This allows more attempts in interpreting the visuals.The material that melts on high temperature and dries under an average temperature can be sculpted easily and used as silicon. However as it dries, the density of the material is so high that it is difficult to see through.The clear plastic on the other hand is more difficult to sculpt and does not allow much improvisation after being fabricated. To allow more control over light transformation, I have decided to use clear plastic molds and Plexiglas lenses. I have used Crystal Clear & Clear Flex for the patterns and lenses. I used transparent Plexiglas for the structure of the lenses.

Design of the lenses

Laser cut Plexiglas lenses as clear plastic molds
I have designed different lenses sizes, each with different pattern shapes and pattern sizes. In addition, I have used flat lenses on which I have created clear plastic patterns, e.g. drops of clear plastic, rows of lines.

Regular patterns laser cut into transparent Plexiglas

After many chemical attempts, final choice: Crystal Clear & Clear Flex

Plexiglas lenses filled with Crystal Clear & Clear Flex mix (1A:2B)

Lense with irregular patterns positioned at 2cm from the video camera
This is the research conducted to create my final project: The Texture of Lightfor the Smart Materials course taught by Michelle Addington

Paper about the project (12mb)

More links

Very interesting related research Gate Vision, found on we-make-money-not-art (blog that is part of the best european ones). The results of this project are kaleidoscopics and the mechanism is digital rather than mechanical.
I particularly liked the circular metaphor of the visuals and reminded me of one of my favorite experimental movie Lapis by James Whitney (1966)an abstract art film composed of images produced by an analog computer.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Texture of Light

The Texture of Light is research on lighting principles and the exploration of life feed video metamorphosis in the public space using reflection of light on transparent materials. The Texture of Light is an attempt to fight the boredom of everyday life. By reconstructing reality, giving it a texture, an expressive form, this project deploys the simple use of chemistry, plexiglas, and plastic patterns. The transformation of life feed video comes from the physical plastic circles that act as different masks of reality. These masks can be moved around and swap by the public enabling collective expressions. This metamorphosis of the public space is presented in real time as a moving painting and is projected on city walls. The public can record video clips of their 'moving painting' and project them back on different city locations.


The final model is composed of a set of lenses, an iSight video camera, a rotary knob and a computer. For the purpose of this project I have conceived and implemented a software piece that links the life feed video to a projection screen. This application is controlled by the rotary knob and by pressing more than two seconds the knob, the software records a video clip coming from the life feed video. By pressing on the knob, the software plays back the recorded clip and projects it onto the screen. By turning the knob, the software returns in life feed mode. The video clips are collected onto a server and can be accessed by other computers from different cities. This instantly creates a canvas of multiple transformed city video clips controlled and created by the dwellers in each city.

Excerpts of life feed video metamorphosis Clic on the picture for a hi-res view

Small-squares large lense

Small-circles small lense

Medium-hexagons large lense

Large-stars small lense

Future outlook for Texture of Light
I envision this project on a larger scale such as building-size panels the public could mechanically control using remote devices. Each panels will be patterns and transparent material specific. For instance, two Plexiglas sheets could embed a water fall, or viscous transparent material the user could distribute along his/her selected point of views. The software will allow media distribution among cities so that the outcomes of the public performances could be exposed on the panels of other cities.

This is my final project for the Smart Materials course taught by Michelle Addington. Some information about the research and tests involved in this project.

More about the project
. Paper about the project (12mb).
. The Texture of Light on We Make Money Not art.
. auto vision
. Publication: The Texture of Light Vaucelle, C. In Art and Design Tools. Published in the Proceedings of SIGGRAPH'06, Boston, USA. Abstract from publisher: ACM Press.
download pdf

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Breathing Wall

The Breathing Wall is a Kinetic Installation that shows a wall reacting to the public space. Made out of architectural objects that work independently or dependently of one another, it deploys and retracts soft fabric

This picture shows the mechanics and electronics of our Breathing Wall piece.

On this picture I create shadows on the light sensors to have the Breathing Wall react to my presence.

During our conceptual phase, we thought of an assembly of cloth cubes that would form partial transparency. When densely packed, they form a privacy cloud or mist enclosure. When they retract they close the view they were enhancing. The idea is to use these kind of elements to define more diffuse borders in architecture. Soft edges resembling the spatial limits one finds in nature and in the landscape.

Our concept

Inspiring research

We would like to think of it on a scale of a huge wall, where the experience an outsider has of the activities going on inside is shifting constantly by the affordances of the changing architectural surface.

Process of implementation
First round

Second round

I have created this kinetic piece with Ana Aleman. It is our final assignment for the Kinetic Architecture class taught by Dr Kostas Terzidis.

Review process summary

For the first assignment of this class I had designed a Memento Box as an attractive passage from door to space. The door leads to your souvenirs and is always slightly opened. A bright light shines in the back of the box clarifying a few objects and pictures around it. However, whenever your hand tries to grab what captures the eye, the door closes onto your hand in front of you and all is dark again. Whenever you go away for a tiny bit, the door opens up and more lights shine into some parts of your souvenirs and you can travel though them from far away ...

Picture of the Memento Box

For the second assignment of this class I had designed the Ambient Peacock/Chameleon explorer with Philip Vriend as a serie of mobile units connected to a headquarter that display environmental visual on each of their shell. Real time connecting to the headquarter allow the head to ask for specific data gathering and collection of the environment. This project was blogged by Pasta and Vinegar.

Picture of the 'air' mobile unit

By Cati in kinetic architecture

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

PlayPals: Tangible Interfaces for Remote Communication and Play

PlayPals are a set of wireless figurines with their electronic accessories that provide children with a playful way to communicate between remote locations. PlayPals is designed for children aged 5-8 to share multimedia experiences and virtual co-presence. We learned from our pilot study that embedding digital communication into existing play pattern enhances both remote play and communication

The project PlayPals is a team and class project for the Tangible Media class mid-term assignment at MIT Media Lab taught by Dr Hiroshi Ishii. It was presented as an extended Abstract of Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '06), (Montreal, Quebec, Canada. April 22-27, 2006) by Bonanni, L., Lieberman, J., Vaucelle, C., Zuckerman, O. (alphabetical order).

Our concept poster

On this picture I interact with the doll, Leo being on the other end

Our implementation poster

By Cati in computational toy design

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Taptap, the affectionate scarf

TapTap: A Haptic Wearable for Asynchronous Distributed Touch Therapy

I continued the development on my conceptual idea touching memories and as a team we came up with a final prototype called 'taptap'.

TapTap is a wearable haptic system that allows nurturing human touch to be recorded, broadcast and played back for emotional therapy. Haptic input/output modules in a convenient modular scarf provide affectionate touch that can be personalized.

Movie of Taptap

This picture shows the second prototype that is a scarf with large pockets with a power supply. The design of the scarf is intended to make it wearable in a number of ways and allow specific TapTap actuators to be mounted wherever the wearer desires. The outside of the scarf is a public color (gray) while the inside and its intimate actuators are a warm color (pink).

Based on haptic devices, taptap can be re-configured to record and play back the touch that is most meaningful to each user. It is made from felt in two layers: one grey one that faces the public and a pink layer that touches you and contains the haptic modules in specially designed pockets. Taptap can be worn as a regular scarf, and custom touch modules can be placed in powered pockets within to record and play back touch where and when you want it

Taptap was blogged by Regine Debatty on we-make-money-not-art.com with a nice summary and useful references :)

Taptap is a team and class project for the Tangible Media class final assignment at MIT Media Lab taught by Dr Hiroshi Ishii. I presented with Leo at CHi'06 as an extended Abstract of Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '06), (Montreal, Quebec, Canada. April 22-27, 2006) by Bonanni, L., Lieberman, J., Vaucelle, C., Zuckerman, O. (alphabetical order). Download pdf.

Taptap was part of the second Seamless fashion show, on February 1, at the Boston Museum of Science.

On this picture, I wear a second prototype

A few publications on Taptap and its next steps:
. A Framework for Haptic Psycho-Therapy Published in the Proceedings of IEEE ICPS Pervasive Health Systems Workshop, Lyon, France, 2006.
. Affective TouchCasting Published in the Proceedings of SIGGRAPH'06, Boston, USA. Abstract from publisher: ACM Press. Download pdf