What if you could physically see and identify a person’s emotions through visible biofeedback? Or gauge a potential mate’s interest? How many times have you wanted to know what someone else was feeling? Growing up, it’s common to wonder what any of us might do with extra-sensory perception or abilities. Although there is no way to implant programs and download directly into our bodies or hardwire our brains (yet), creative technologists are constantly finding ways to work with how we learn and engage through game play. Aside from language, one of the defining features of human nature is the ability to express emotions and feelings. Whether it’s through our facial expressions to the tone and pitch of our voices, advancements in technology allow us to figure out ways to learn more about human interaction. Sensoree’s Galvanic Extimacy Responder (GER) may provide fascinating answers to many of the aforementioned questions. GER designer, Kristin Neidlinger, created a soft wearable device reflecting the mood of the wearer. Although taking the intimacy of emotions and offering up a tangible and experiential connection to others might seem playful and whimsical, it speaks to the human desire of connection. The Sensoree website provides a simple yet robust description of the GER,“The high collar, bowl positioned with LEDs reflects onto the self for instant biofeedback and acts as a tele-display or external blush for the other”.

Last Sunday, a group of eager game testers gathered at the SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco. Armed with anticipation, the testers included game designers, ZERO1 art ambassadors, developers, engineers, art patrons, avid gamers, artists, and creative technologists. The diverse range of participants resulted in a wide array of feedback for the Sensoree design team. With an affinity towards anything psychologically based, I opted to test Sensoree’s GER, which is defined specifically as the “sensor that detects excitement levels and translates mood into a palette of affective colors”. The game participants wore a large soft fabric ring that resembled a cowl neck scarf. The GER fabric was translucent enough to display soft colors with a corresponding emotion:

  • Green = Zen | Peaceful | Placid
  • Blue = Calm | Relaxed | Focused
  • Purple = Inspired | Alert | Perked
  • Pink = Excited | Aroused | Eager
  • Red = Nervous | Delirious | In Love
  • White = Nirvana | Bliss | Transcendent

Variations of game play included teams of approximately four individuals deciding on a particular emotion and eliciting that particular emotion for the team mate wearing the GER. At first, one of my teammates tried to make my scarf a steady red. Not so surprisingly, he asked me to imagine a very angry editor wanting changes to a work that took me quite some time to finish. Yes, it went straight to red. For the team challenge, I wore the GER and my teammates instructed me to close my eyes and imagine overtly serene landscapes (i.e., babbling brook, a quiet mountain side, etc.) while encouraging me to focus on my breath. Hoping this would translate into green lit GER, it took my team about ten minutes to have the GER emanate green and consistently keep me in a ‘zen, peaceful, and placid’ state. Yet, the GER works differently for each person. For SOMArts Gallery Director and Curator Justin Hoover, the GER was constantly lit at Blue with very seldom color changes. Later, the group learned he studied Martial Arts! Not too entirely sure what that says about me or my sweat glands other than I probably need to meditate a bit more to control my emotions! Either way, Sensoree’s GER had the entire group of testers discussing the overall design and objective of the GER, which seemed to provide Neidlinger and her team some useful information on how the GER might perform within a larger audience.

On our daily commutes, we see faces turned downward to phones and headphones or ear buds blocking out the sounds of the environment. Therein lies the conundrum of how we interact and evolve alongside rapidly changing technology. In looking at the intersections of art and technology, ZERO1’s biennial theme ‘Seeking Silicon Valley’ aims to showcase innovation emerging far beyond the physical region as well as deepen our understanding of cultures and sub-cultures on a global scale. Although the Galvanic Extimacy Responder (GER) may be based in technology, it necessitates and reminds us that human interaction is the catalyst for connection in our search for the meaning and understanding of Silicon Valley.

Originally posted to ZERO1, please view here

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Imagine a game “African-American or not”? What about “Irish or not”? These game titles sound a bit strange, don’t they? I’ll share a story with you. It’ll be short. One of the most offensive things I’ve ever heard said to me was at my first corporate job at a real estate firm (right out of college). One of the engineering managers said, “Hey Louisa”. I turned around and said, “It’s Dorothy”. He replied, “Oh, whatever, you all look the same”.

Really?

That incident was 12 years ago and as much as I would like to think things have changed. They haven’t. I’m not upset (anymore). Rather, it makes me wonder how I perceive my culture and ethnicity. Or, how do I see other people of color? Last weekend, my dear friend and her partner took me to the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) showing of XXX Shorts, which is not what you think (X=10. X + X + X = 30. 2012 commemorates 30 years of SFIAAFF!). Each film included thoughtful and provocative interpretations and meditations on various traditions and issues across various Asian cultures.

Subsequently, I perused the Center for Asian American Media site and had to look through the Interactive projects (I’m always looking at what designers have created to supplement an event). It’s rather common for festivals and art fairs to create interactive apps for patrons and supporters. Typically, the governing or founding organization develop these tools for android and iPhones so the viewer is connected to the entire event regardless of the end user’s location. Theoretically, these projects serve as a way to build consciousness and awareness around race and gender. I ended up downloading the game application, “Filipino or Not“. Initially, I had mixed emotions (only because I had never played a guessing game regarding this specific issue – guessing someone’s ethnicity!).  Playing the game, I learned a few facts about Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the media. The goal of the game is stated clearly within the application. Despite my initial feelings of ignorance (my first score was 8/10, apparently, the average score is 7/10) after my first game, I’m sure the game designers’ intention was merely to enhance our knowledge and awareness. However, a friend’s thought was that it increases racial profiling and stereotypes, which can be true depending on one’s experiences. I’d like to think, at the end of the game, that the player is reminded to NOT judge people based on their appearances. Or, does the game actually do more harm than good?

Curious? Feel free to download and let me know what you think. Here are some questions for you…

What do you think of these types of games? Have you every played one? What ways have you learned about your culture and ethnicity? How does interactive design and technology help or hinder our understanding of race and gender?

Talk to Me: The Design and Communication between People and Objects

An incredible exhibition of new media and interactive art at the New York Museum of Modern Art. I took an insane amount of photos but wanted to share the pieces that stood out. All of the works were impressive but this would be a ridiculously long post. Please feel free to comment and/or ask questions start a dialogue. Enjoy!!!

SMSlingshot, 2009 ~ Team: Christian Zollner, Patrick Tobias Fischer, Thilo Hoffmann, Sebastian Piatza, and VR/Urban

SMSlingshot was made from the following: high-frequency radio, Arduino board, laser, batteries, plywood, and ash wood. The SMSlingshot marries a traditional weapon with text-messaging technology, projecting digital information onto building facades and other surfaces and turning them into public screens. The battery-powered device is a wooden slingshot with a display screen, keypad, and laser. Users type text messages and then release the slingshot to “blast” them onto nearby surfaces, where they appear within a splash of color and linger as long as the writers decide: at the same instant, the text is transmitted globally via Twitter. For the designers, the SMSlingshot is a tool for reclaiming and occupying increasingly commercialized urban space.

~ Text Source: New York MoMA Exhibition Plaque text

Engaging work by Jaakko Tuomivaara

Hide & See by artist, Jaakko Tuomivaara

A constantly ringing phone doesn’t delight anyone – especially when you have guests around. A discreet cue showing incoming calls and their relative importance gives you the chance to ignore anything that can wait and make your excuses when something can’t.

Every call shows up as a dot, with the red dots around the lips reserved for important numbers. This way the owner of the piece can quickly decode both the number and relative importance of the calls.

~ Text Source: Artist Site (Please click on the image above to learn more about Hide & See and other works by Tuomivaara)

Growing up Catholic, this piece absolutely intrigued me...

Prayer Companion (2010) is made from Photopolymer resin, dot-matrix, display, and printed circuit board. The piece was created by Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths – University of London.

Prayer Companion alerts the nine Poor Clare nuns cloistered at a monastery in York, England, to issues that need their prayers. The nuns, whose everyday lives have changed little since medieval times, take vows of enclosure, and presently their connections to the outside world are occasional and limited. Designed to be understated and unobtrusive, the Prayer Companion – the nuns call it “Goldie” – sits on a table in a well-traveled hallway, scrolling a ticker tape of current issues sourced from RSS news feeds, social networking sites, and blog entries aggregated by the website We Feel Fine (which compiles the emotions of anonymous strangers who have posted the words “I feel” or “I am feeling”). The nuns report that Prayer Companion “has been valuable in keeping (our) prayers pertinent”.

~ Text Source: New York MoMA Exhibition Plaque

It was a real treat to see Tim Roseborough’s work on exhibit in Harlem during my vacation. His latest work, Pan-African, looks at the Pan-Africanism movement through new media. With his rendition and video of controversial song, “Ever Race Has a Flag but The Coon”, and re-contextualization of the song lyrics in Englyph, this intelligent work forces provokes one to ponder the meaning of identity and solidarity.

Please click on the image above to learn more about Pan-African.