MediaLAB Amsterdam : U-turm – Scryption

In the MediaLAB Amsterdam (Lab of the Applied University of Amsterdam) I’ve supervised a few project teams to help them find the right technical solutions for their projects. I’d like to highlight two of them.


An interactive projection for the closing ceremony of the E-culture fair, as part of the cultural capital of Europe Ruhr 2010. Dance on the facade of the Dortmunder U. In collaboration with producer Jan Scholte and the artist Matthias Oostrik.

The U-turm team made an interactive projection on the Dortmunder-U tower. When a person steps on one of the stages their silhouette appears on one of the windows of the building. Depending on how the person moves the silhouette can move to other windows, leaving a trace where it has already been before. If two or more silhouettes meet on the same window there will be some creative content coming out, symbolizing the new use of the building as cultural hotspot.

The installation uses Quart Composer the generate the visuals. I’ve helped Joost Buijs (responsible for the technical part) finding some different motion tracking solutions for Quartz Composer.

Tested options were :

The team did a good job to find and test the right way of interaction. Its a really powerful and intuitive concept I’m curious how its going to look on the big building.

Scryption – Google mirror.

The team of Scryption made a mirror that shows your digital identity. The concept was based on the theories of Marshall McLuhans ideas. From their concept document :

You enter the area and you will see two different mirrors in front of you. You will be directed to type in your name. The left mirror is just an ordinary mirror that shows the real you. The left one shows up the pictures that appear on Google when doing a search query on your name. This mirror shows you the digital you, the identity that is created by the internet (incl. other people) and by yourself. You will then be able to play with your digital shape since there are sensors installed that react on your movement. A picture is uploaded to the net.

The installation fits to the debate around technological determinism. As McLuhan puts it, “We shape our tools and our tools shape us”. But also that the medium is the message since a mirror always confronts you with yourself. And sometimes you see something you didn’t expect to see.

Saro van Cleynenbreugel was responsible for the technical part. Together with him and project coach Iris Douma we’ve decided to make the installation with Processing. I like Processing because of the ease of code sharing (mail some code and run it directly). However in the end Processing seemed a bit to slow for the task. Especially blending a camera silhouette with images and text cost a lot frames. Maybe next time I would choose and suggest OpenFrameWorks for an installation like this. In the end the application ran at 20 fps, so we couldn’t complain. Due some problems with a Nightvision camera (warning: exposure settings don’t work in that mode), there was some trouble to make a nice looking silhouette.

Libraries used :

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