Hello Human! Moment Discovery At The Works Festival by Meghan Desjardins
Hello Human! was an immersive art exhibit, developed specifically for the The Works Art & Design Festival, July 7-16, 2023.
Curated by research director Pamela Anthony, Hello Human! invited people to interact with their digital selves, becoming both the subject and composer of live immersive art and games. Hello Human! was aptly fitting for The Works 2023’s theme of “immerse yourself”. The exhibit reflected Moment Discovery’s fascination with the relationship between living in a physical body and embracing a digital existence. The custom software and technology developed by Moment Discovery allow for the expression of a virtual body in the real world, exploring the convergence of art-tech and body-computing as a profound art form that integrates personal data streams into digital art design, live gaming, and self-referenced live-virtuality.
Hello Human! involved the entire Moment Discovery team, with 5 guest artists who collaborated on developing new work. Moment Discovery also hosted a series of discussion panels and demos.
Opening the doors to the public for the first time, Moment Discovery invited guests to experience their human computing technology in a fully immersive environment. Over the 10 day event, 600 people attended the Hello Human! Exhibit.
Hello Human! Exhibits
At Hello Human!, Moment Discovery’s collective of artists, software developers, and programmers came together with guest artists to create a suite of 7 new art-tech experiences. These art-tech pieces empowered audiences to compose an immersive environment – to paint with light, orchestrate music and poetry with movement, interact with their 3D avatars, play live art games, and summon otherworldly dimensions.
LOUD – Kristi Hansen and Pamela Anthony
‘A totally awesome head banging body bouncing ear rattling party vibe’
The world of Pamela and Kristi’s LOUD is like stepping into an underground punk rock club. As participants move through LOUD, they activate an array of coloured spotlights, explosive rock music, ambient club sounds, and video projections of dancing crowds. Participants DJ the sound experience in LOUD, selecting audio by moving through the space and controlling the volume of each track through their limbs moving up and down in each mapped media zone. DotBox, Moment Discovery’s 8 ft interactive cube housing 8000 programmable LEDs, illuminates with a dynamic 3D spectrogram, fuelled by the room’s volume. On DotWall, a brightly pixelated hand salutes with devil horns and flashing red flames. Engulfed in lights, sound, and colour, it’s a synesthetic trip for the senses!
The Lesson – Usha Gupta, Will Bauer (featuring Kuljolt Singh Kainth)
‘Begin at the very beginning – Kathak dance and music’
Will and Usha imagined The Lesson as an immersive journey into Kathak, the classical North Indian dance. Participants stepping into the exhibit summon a swirl of dance videos and music in 3D space, bringing alive the magic of Kathak through the form of a lesson. This experience is led by Usha Gupta, an iconic Indian dance artist and guru, who shares the story and techniques of Kathak. Usha is joined by Kuljolt Singh Kainth, a skilled young Tabla player, whose lively performance infuses the dance of Kathak with rhythm and energy.
The Lesson shares the fundamentals of Kathak, integrating storytelling, musical rhythms, clapping, footwork, and mudras.
YOUniverse – Lebo Disele, Meg Desjardins, and Jonah Badger
‘You are stardust, moving through the universe’
YOUniverse is inspired by outer space, Ancient Greek mythology, and the sci-fi vibes of Moment Discovery’s tech. There are 7 scenes or ‘alternate dimensions’ to explore. The Void evokes a sense of unease and liminal space; DotBox barely illuminates a muted lavender hue, oblong purple blobs slowly slither on DotWall, and the skewed droning of chimes fills the emptiness. In Red Dwarf, DotWall goes solid red, the room is tense with an ascending beat, DotBox contains a giant vibrating red sphere ready to explode. As the participant steps closer to DotBox, the Red Dwarf transforms into Red Explosion, with hundreds of fireballs haphazardly flying, and a video of a raging desert sandstorm plays on the back wall of the exhibit. In Chaos, the explosion summons crackling golden embers in DotBox, golden sand swirls in DotWall, and the same sand storm projection on the back wall, except the orientation of the world is upside down. In the next scene, Water Avatar, DotBox fills with ocean waves in suspended animation, while the DotWall and video wall become an aquamarine reflection pool. The participant realizes they have control of the ocean visualisation, the swirling waves of turquoise and cyan mirroring their movement. In Aurora Borealis, the DotBox and DotWall fill with eerie green and violet ribbons of an aurora borealis and projected on the back wall, a mutli-coloured web of nebulas. In the final scene, Starry Night, the participant is surrounded by hundreds of twinkling stars accompanied by a symphony of crickets. As the participant leaves Youniverse, they trigger all of the “dimensions” from their previous journey.
BigEasel – Dylan Rominik and Charffy Wang
‘Animal cuteness and live cartooning’
In BigEasel, Dylan and Charffy became digital cartoonists, each creating 10 different animal and insect creatures that displayed on DotWall. They used online programs Pixelart and Bitmap conversion as well as Moment Discovery’s newest software feature Draw, a program that Charffy helped develop. They also added sound effects to play with each of their pixel creatures. Dylan made Butterfly, Bee, TRex, Lion, Ladybug, Bunny, Duck3, Cat, Pig, and Whale. Chaffy’s creatures include Turtle, Panda, Duck, Bird, Snake, Fox, Corgi, Bulldog, Dachshund, and Penguin. Some of the creature scenes like the Lion, Pig, Duck include animated elements in the foreground and background, like a flaming campfire, a mud puddle and red barn, or swirling waves and falling rain drops.
Draw – Charffy Wang and Pamela Anthony
‘Think: giant, digital Lite Brite’
Draw functioned as a digital art drawing program, where people could create their own pixelated masterpieces using DotWall as their large scale canvas. People created mountain vistas, abstract Jackson Pollock-like paint splatters, smiley faces, animals, rainbows, and a Moment Discovery team favourite, Marcus’s rendition of The Starry Night.
Wallpaper – Pamela Anthony and Conroy Badger
‘It will be the wallpaper or me… one of us will have to go’ Oscar Wilde
Pamela and Conroy teamed up to create Wallpaper, an interactive experience using Moment Discovery’s responsive projector technology. Pamela curated a photography collection centering on Lucy, her life-sized skeleton sculpture and Moment’s part-time body calibration model. As participants move around the space, their movements enlarge, minimise and change the images of Lucy or trigger a rapid oscillation of images. It was interesting when the physical action required to play games like 3D Pong, inadvertently set off Wallpaper, and truly brought the whole room to life.
Bounce – Marcus Rasko-Todd, Pamela Anthony, and Conroy Badger
“The art and rhythm of playing ball”
The concert of Bounce, a sports inspired installation, was set in motion for The Works Festival. Marcus envisioned a scenography where the player could move a ball in DotBox, mimicking the physicality of basketball play, including scoring opportunities. The ambitious software challenge was accepted by Conroy, but required more time than available. The project will also trigger basketball court sounds as players bounce light balls and shoot for pixelated hoops.
Moment Discovery Classic Works
Moment Discovery also exhibited their current body of immersive art-tech experiences to the public during Hello Human!.
Live Video and Depth – Pamela Anthony, Conroy Badger
Imagine a full-length mirror where your reflection is pixelated and your shadow is light. This is the essence of the live video and depth experience through DotWall, Moment Discovery’s 2.43 m x 2.1m x 0.50m wall of 1500 individually addressable LEDs. A Kinect 2 camera captures live footage from the exhibit space and feeds the data into DotWall, functioning like an impressionist funhouse mirror.
3D Pong – Conroy Badger, (featuring sound by Jonah Badger, Clinton Carew, Elena Porter)
Remember Pong? Conroy has created the 3D life-sized version of this digital tennis game. 3D Pong allows up to 4 players, 1 for each face of Moment Discovery’s 8 ft cube installation, DotBox. Player’s hands are transformed into LED paddles to hit the flying LED Pong ball. Amping up the experience is Jonah’s nostalgic arcade-inspired audio and voice recordings from actors Clinton Carew and Elena Porter.
Watercolour – Conroy Badger
Watercolour is a digital paint installation, where participants can collaborate on mixing colours into abstract 3D paintings. Each player has their own colour, and as they move their hands, coloured lights fill the box, then slowly fade with time. Watercolour is best experienced with others, each participant can fill the cube with their colour, collide their light strokes and blend their colours together.
Red Forearms – Pamela Anthony
Red Forearms is an opportunity to create and play with massive red, blue, and purple Saturn-like spheres within DotBox. The spheres mirror the players’ arm movements, rotating and merging into one another, creating vibrantly coloured abstractions. Soft and eerie theremin music plays, emphasising the sci-fi vibe.
Sparkle Fingers – Pamela Anthony (featuring music by Will Bauer)
Sparkle Fingers is an exercise in small movements with big impact. Using only fingers and thumbs, players create sparkling explosions of white and pink light that fill the DotBox. Whether participants twiddle thumbs or wave jazz hands, in Sparkle Fingers, it’s lighting at your fingertips.
idunno – Dylan Rominik, Pamela Anthony
Inspired by hip-hop dance, Dylan and Pamela created this vibrant full-body avatar called idunno. The idunno avatar is characterised by exaggerated round body parts, neon hues, and accurate movement mimicry – it’s your colourful robot twin! idunno becomes a 3D playground for people to interact and dance into one another’s digital avatar.
Garden – Pamela Anthony (featuring music by Will Bauer)
Garden is a meditation on the feeling of encountering a beautiful garden. A full-body immersive experience focused on natural movement, a casual passerby of Garden will recognize themselves reflected in the moving colour and shapes, or they can enter more fully into the experience, as their movements create a living garden of vibrant azure, sky blue, magenta, and chartreuse light. Will’s serene piano melodies add to the mesmerising effect.
SAL – Pamela Anthony
SAL, paying homage to HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, exudes a chaotic-good essence in contrast to the malevolent nature of its inspirational counterpart. SAL manifests as a sound-responsive design showcased on DotWall, featuring strange pulsing pink and blue orbs, while SAL dynamically expands and contracts in reaction to environmental sounds. As the room’s volume increases, the blue sound waves of SAL stretch out, resembling a dispersion of scattered stars.
Sound Tsunami – Jonah Badger
Visualise sound wash over you as a bright green, red, blue and gold spectrogram waveform, brilliantly illuminated within DotBox. The colours intensify with elevated volume and pitch variations. A great conversation starter.
Princess Spectrum – Jonah Badger
This 3D visualisation responds to sound in varying hues of pink, gold, and green columns, expanding with increased volume and pitch changes.
Algorithmic Art – Moment Discovery Team
Moment Discovery’s entire team has collaborated on a suite of algorithmic art. These algorithms represent mathematical problems and patterns of biological behaviours. For instance, there’s Conway’s Game of Life, a cellular automaton which simulates evolving arrays of cells following specific rules. Other algorithms include flocking behaviours or gradient and distance noise as seen in Perlin and Worley. Conroy and Jonah programmed these algorithms into beautiful 3D visualisations for DotBox, and they are used to create entire suites of media art. Creators can design a truly unique algorithmic display by layering files and customizing every aspect from colour hues, pattern generation and speed, LED activity, and more. The team adapted their 3D algorithmic art for their newest installation device, DotWall, a 2D 2.43m x 2.1m x 0.50m LED wall. Will Bauer describes DotWall as a 2D ½ surface that incorporates depth through its dual layers and more closely spaced, off-set LED configuration. The resulting art works are a mesmerising visual experience.
Hello Human! Special Events
As a part of Hello Human!, Moment Discovery hosted a series of discussion panels and special events. These included a demo of theatrical applications for Moment Discovery’s Spatio software, a community discussion on revitalizing downtown Edmonton through arts, and a diversity panel examining equity for creatives working in technology.
Opening – Fri July 7, 4 – 6 pm
At the Opening event, Moment Discovery welcomed the public and invited guests to experience the magic of Hello Human!. Moment Discovery team members led demonstrations of the immersive art exhibits and games, expanding on human computing as an art form and the Moment Discovery story.
Spatio for Theatre – Mon July 10, 12 – 1:30 pm
Theatre production professionals and artists were invited to experience a demo of Spatio, Moment Discovery’s body-computing, and live media cueing software, discussing its applications in live performance.
People in Places – Tues July 11, 12 – 1:30 pm
Moment Discovery sparked an informal discussion with local artists, downtown professionals, and community members to explore reinvigorating and reimagining downtown Edmonton through the arts.
FTECH: Diversity in Digital – Thur July 13, 12 – 1:30 pm
Kelly Ruth led an engaging discussion on diversity in digital with Moment Discovery’s team and artist collaborators, including Pamela Anthony, Will Bauer, Jonah Badger, Charffy Wang, Meg Desjardins, Mel Geary, Kristi Hansen, Gerry Morita, erψn temp3st, Amber Rooke, and invited guests. They explored topics such as overcoming barriers, learning and developing new tech, using tech as a creative medium, fostering diversity within the tech industry, and envisioning the future of our digital selves.
Hello Human! Visitor Experience
The visitor experience of Hello Human! is characterized by moments of joy, fascination, and a dynamic range of interactions across different visitor groups. Hello Human! attracted around 600 visitors from diverse demographics. Families with young children, numerous young adults en route to the festivals or casually passing through the mall, working professionals from the area (across various ages groups), and a few middle-aged to elderly couples either on their way to the festival or visiting with family. Children and toddlers showed great enthusiasm for Charffy and Dylan’s DotWall BigEasel creatures, while babies particularly enjoyed the Live Video & Depth effect on the DotWall, recognizing themselves and engaging with it. In particular, DotWall’s Live Video & Depth effect proved a resounding success across visiting age groups. Teenagers taking selfies, families gathering around to recognize themselves in the display, enjoying their ‘dotified’ reflection.
Classic art experiences such as 3D Pong, Garden, Watercolour, Red Forearms, Sparkle Fingers, Sound Tsunami, and Princess Spectrum were popular among visitors and attracted return visitors.
Numerous individuals displayed excitement, calling the art-tech”cool” and “awesome,” with some eagerly exclaiming, “Hey, that’s me!” upon identifying their own image in the installations. Some visitors compared the experience to therapy, mentioning potential benefits for movement rehabilitation and/or mental health. People particularly enjoyed the sound reactivity feature, where resounding applause and wolf howls lit up DotBox. The interactive nature of the exhibit led to various reactions, with some people preferring to watch, others getting close and touching the lights, while many engaged and moved around with the tech. Many visitors expressed interest in having similar or smaller versions of the installations at their events or in their homes. The exhibit also sparked nostalgic memories for some. One person recalled their 4th-grade science fair experience, the theme being optical illusions, and noting profound thoughts of subjectivity versus objectivity as a 9 year old. Several visitors inquired about accessing the tech beyond the festival, while others were curious about the technical aspects and programming languages used in its development.
Participating in The Works Festival and creating the immersive art exhibit Hello Human! proved to be an invaluable learning opportunity for the Moment Discovery team. It provided a chance to observe how the public interacted with their body-responsive art-tech and gather insights from participants to enhance both the technology and the overall visitor experience. The team actively introduced suggestions to refine tracking accuracy such as using floor tape and artistic markers to clearly define the optimal tracking area. As future exhibits are considered, striking a balance between offering guidance and allowing spontaneous public reactions will be a focal point.