Saturday, October 31, 2009

Seeing Story as a Mystery Box

I was talking with an African writer and professor recently at a meeting that we had some trouble scheduling. We met at my request to discuss a story idea that I was working on. Instead of getting to the point, this professor began to tell me stories of her family in Ghana, stories about her health and her problems with her insurance, and stories about her students. Because I was the one seeking her assistance, I began by being polite, puzzled, and struggled to be patient. When I attempted to bring the conversation around to the matter at hand, she would go off on another tangent. Finally I realized that her stories and her references were oblique, that I was required to listen actively enough to make the connection between what I had asked and what she was answering. The indirectness of her methods lent a unfamiliar pattern and a subtlety to our conversation which, when it finally wound around to the exact topic I had come to discuss, was the richer for it for I knew more about her and how she thinks. It made me realize how often in this culture we hurry toward what we think should be the point of the story, when wandering off track and having to reconcile the distance between where we are and where we were heading makes for a more complex and nuanced chaining of ideas. Listening to answers from directions we don't expect leaves us more room for discovery in stories, and opens us to the possibilities of mysterious connections.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hype cycle and project design

I was reading about the Hype Cycle on Schell's book chapter 26, which let me thinking that our class project might be going through a wave of disillusionment. I had a peak of excitement in the beginning, but my ignorance on the technology needed to achieve the results we dreamed, as well as to dominate the process, let me go down in the curve. As Schell points out, though, some depression moments are important to make you think realistically and take your project back with more realistic objectives and renewed breath. Below, a hype cycle figure modelling or predicting tendencies related to emerging technologies.

Second Life applications in public health

I was doing some research in possible applications of second life media technology, and sincerely I was struck by the potential of second life in education. Here is an advertising video on possible applications of second life in public health done by University of Michigan. According to them, "an active public health community is simulating disaster scenarios, creating interactive health games, offering people with disabilities a place for support and social networking, and providing a space for professionals to view presentations and attend international conferences". I imagine how much second life is going to be used in universities as a learning tool in diverse disciplines. The only problem is people getting disabilities for staying in front of computer too much leaving their second lives, sometimes more than their "first lives", real ones or the carbon physical world that Arturo mentions.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shamar's IST Paper Outline

For my paper I will explore new story environments as a powerful medium of entertainment, social and political organizing and business strategy. I will give a general overview of the way in which such emerging technologies are being used and will reference specific artworks and/or advertisements which 1) call the ethical ramifications of these emerging technologies into question 2) show new possibilities for the future that could arise due to these technologies.

I will then explore how the emerging technologies could be coupled with communal face-to-face interactions so that the collective body can experience community not only in cyberspace and digitally networked environments, but also in the actual real space where bodies reside. This research will investigate how ancient techniques used for communal and individual healing/celebration can be brought into the present and re-interpreted (in these interactive story spaces) to solve modern day problems and imagine new paradigms for the future. I will explore how to create meaning and connection in such interactive story spaces and will seek to understand how this could lead to inspired actions - be they personal, political, social, etc. I will be looking at Barbara Hubbard's Syncon Process, Rah's Hip Hop Mental Health Project, and Julia Butterfly Hill's organization, What's Your Tree, in addition to referencing Barbara Ehrenreich's book, Dancing in the Streets. And last, I will be exploring the possibilities that these models present for the continued cultivation of BAM.

Elephants Dream

I was going to post this animation when I saw

Sunday, October 25, 2009

3D modeling

I'm working on modeling a hand for the Night myth. I've been using a tutorial that I found at, tried posting the video but can't because of copyright reasons. So, if you go to the site above you can see what I'm talking about. Anyways, modeling a human hand is a challenging task. Both to create a natural-looking hand and to create one with good topology. This tutorial address both of those issues. The whole process is very tedious and time consuming. I'm unsure if this model has too many vertices and would be difficult to read in FLARtoolkit or ARbuilder. And I plan on animating the hand, so whether or not it can open on these programs without crashing is a concern. Should I make it more cartoonlike and reduce the complexity of the mesh?

I posted this tutorial so you could get an idea with what I'm working on. This tutorial is more simple and efficient than the one done in blender. However, he's using a 3D modeling program called Maya, which costs over $3,000. Still, the basic premise behind the tutorial is enlightening. There are so many methods to make a 3D model. I think it's key to use a reference and decrease the amount of vertices. A few pointers made in the tutorial were very helpful as far as detailing your model goes.
anyone has suggestions I'd appreciate you sharing them. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Building An Interactive Story

For many years I have been an admirer of the great Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi, ever since making a pilgrimage to Barcelona to see his work in person- but one does not simply “see” Gaudi’s work. Walking around the cathedral he designed, La Sagrada Familia, felt more like a of game of discovery as my eyes picked out surface details among the masses of shapes. They appear like the accretions on an undersea castle. I remember noticing a life-sized fir tree amid the human and animal figures, all of which look as if they are cast from life.

The idea wrote about that Gaudi that I find most intriguing has to do with a metaphor. He said that he was interested in designing buildings so that, for the inhabitants, the space felt like the inside of a dragon. Using sculpted forms and curved walls, even his apartment buildings create an experiential shift as one moves through the twists and turns. His metaphor is underscored by the ceramic tile finials running along the ridges of the roof, and textures on the exterior walls that look like scales.

By entering a building by the great Catalan master, we enter a virtual world in which we must provide the protagonist- ourselves. Whether we think experiencing space in a surprising way is disorienting or intriguing, we are shown that the standard flat floor and walls are a cultural assumption, and perhaps an unnescessary limitation for our imaginations. Exploring the inside of a dragon, albeit virtual, makes all things possible.

Image of Casa Batllo in Barcelona, Spain.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Markerless Laser Tracking

Thanks to the link that Pink Ninja (thank you!) left on the Interactive Architecture post below, I was able to track the technology to the Ishikawa Komuro Laboratory , A. Cassinelli, S. Perrin and M. Ishikawa developed this Smart Laser-Scanner for 3D Human-Machine Interface.

This was presented at SIGGRAPH 2004 in Los Angeles, but their first paper was presented in 2003 in New Zealand, so I imagine that this technology has evolved sufficiently to be integrated as a wearable computer interface to soon become ubiquitous.

Notice in the credits below the use of MAX/MSP and Super Collider. MAX/MSP is the commercial version of PD, which you have used in class. And SuperCollider is a sound synthesis OS program that we will explore shortly as well.

Markerless tracking is of course something of great interest to us, since that is the nature of our motion-capture system that some of you have utilized already.

This video is quite fun as well, specially towards the end.

It reminds me of the Oasis project done in Processing by Yunsil Heo and Hyunwoo Bang from the Everyware Creative Computing Group. Take time to see their work. It is fascinating.

Credit details:

Alvaro Cassinelli: concept (smart laser scanner, sticky light and scoreLight) / custom hardware and software (C++, early MAX/MSP demo)
Kuribara Yusaku: latest software developement - contour tracking & improved dynamics (C++) / interface (C#)
Daito Manabe: sound concept and sound programming (MAX/MSP,Super Collider) - in progress.

Additional credits:

Stephane Perrin: participated in early development of the smart laser scanner technology used for tracking.
Technology developed at the Ishikawa-Komuro Laboratory, under direction of Professor Masatoshi Ishikawa.
New contribution: Alexis Zerroug (electronics).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interactive Architecture 2

What do buildings do? Well, they define the space around us. Once we look beyond the functionality of a place—the mechanics and objectified experience, which is defined by the structure of architecture—we find the reality (objectified world) and actuality (experienced world) of our interactions. An infinite number of possibilities are limited by the structure of architecture. As people interact with the architecture they bring a subjective point of view and become participants, rather than users of space. If a building were to have an interactive multiple loop system where a sort of ‘conversation,’ or exchange of interactions, could take place between person and place, then we have interactive architecture.

Some may take that concept and employ digital projections that can interact with the surfaces upon which they are projected. If you project these illustrations within an urban landscape you then alter the perspective of that landscape. This of course is a great method for spreading messages of social importance before the eyes and in the minds of your fellow city inhabitants. All it is is trial and error.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Some ways to create 3d Models - How we did it for "Myths from Amazon" Project

Creating and Using 3D Models

We downloaded several models that suite our Project from Google's 3D Warehouse.
We modified them to our needs using Google Sketchup and then converted those Models to .3ds Models (Using Export feature of Google Sketchup Pro)


Though .3DS, Collada, .KMZ files and many other 3D Model formats are supported by FLARToolKit and FLARManager, we choose to use Collada (.dae extension file names), version 4
Models as many code samples were/are available in the web for Collada Models.


Using Blender (Program from we imported the .3DS models, saved them as blender files and then converted them to Collada models using the Export option.
These Collada Models (From 3D Warehouse to .3DS to .dae) were/are used for the Project.


After converting to .dae files, open the .dae file using notepad (or any text editor or your choice) and search for .jpg or .png files.
These are the Texture of the 3D Model. You have to make sure the Texture ( .jpg or .png) files exist in the directory path specified in the .dae file. You can modify the path if needed.


original value (after exporting from .3ds to .dae using Blender)


After manual editing (Editing with text editor)



Note: The path to the image texture file created in the .dae file can be absolute (e.g. C:\Project\..\..\images\3ds\banana1.jpg) or relative (e.g. \images\3ds\banana1.jpg) depending on the option you choose with the export using Blender. (Please choose relative at that time of export)
After manually editing the path to say


make sure the file banana1.jpg is in the same dir as the .dae file (say banana3d.dae).


- Suresh

How to create Markers and Patterns for VR/AR

1. To create your own markers please review the following:

2. To have an understanding about Markers please review "Marker File" in


You can use Paint Brush, Adobe Photshop, Gimp etc (any tool you are comfortable) to create the images/pattern for the markers.
Save the file as .jpg or .png with not greater than 278 X 278 pixel.
Then print a copy of the images/pattern.
Use the online marker generator at
to generate the Marker Pattern (.pat extension) file. (You can either use the printed copy and a Web cam to get the .pat file or use the saved .jpg or .png file to get the .pat file using the online Marker generator Program)

For good performance and easy tracking:

- Have the outer Black square about 80mm and the inner White Square about 40mm.

- If you use the online maker from the link given in item 1 above, choose 8X8 as the Marker Size.
Also if you want to use a stored .jpg or .png file with the image/pattern to make the Marker (.pat file) using the online maker program given in the URL of item 1 above, make sure the Pixel size is less than 278 X 278 for the program to fully select your Pattern as a Marker.

Example of the Marker images that our team member Esme created for the Project are shown here:

Note: The Picture shows 4 different Markers used in the Project to track 4 different 3D Objects.



Testing Basic Setup of FLARMANAGER after installation

After you have installed and setup as given in the previous post, review the
Loading Collada Models example in

Run the example in your computer and make sure you see the scout march at standing position.
If this works then you have the basic setup.



Installation and Setup for VR using FlashDevelop

I. Using Flex Builder

1. If you want to use Flex Builder please follow the 7 Steps given under Quick Start in the link

II. Using Flash Develop (Note you need Flex Builder also indirectly)

2. If you want to use Flash Build please follow the steps given in the link:

The literature in above link is in French.

The following is its translation in English:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

FlashDevelop and FLARManager

As promised here's how to install and configure FlashDevelop to work with FLARManager.
Our goal is to "compile" the package example FLARManager v06. Most blogs you say FLARManager v05 can not run under FlashDevelop "It is not really a solution." Implied, we must work with Flex Builder. Perhaps, but there is a possibility. Here it is.

Install FlashDevelop

Go to the site and download the latest version in the category 'All Downloads'.

Double-click the installer, follow the instruction. FlashDevelop is installed.

Installing Flex 3 SDK

Go to the Adobe site and download the Latest Milestone Release Build from the Adobe Flex SDK:

Create a directory named flexsdk in the Tools directory of FlashDevelop
(C:\Program Files\FlashDevelop\Tools).

Unzip the downloaded archive into the newly created directory.

Install Flash 10 Debugger

Personally, I downloaded the full package ( and I installed all debuggers.

Setting up FlashDevelop to FLARManager v06 (and reverse)

Go to
and download FLARManager v06 from download FLARManager
Unzip in a temporary directory (I'll call "source").
Open FlashDevelop and create a new AS3 project (I'll call the project).
You should have three directories in the project: bin, lib and src.

You will transfer files and directories from the source to the project:
- html_doc => bin
- resources => at the root of the project (ideally later to put your resources and assets in bin)
- files in libs => lib
- files in src => src

In FlashDevelop, right-click each *. swc files in lib and choose "Add to library"

Finally right-click
src / and select "Always Compile".

You can delete your

Project window should look like this image:

In the top menu, choose Project > Properties and change the values:
- Target: "Flash Player 10”
- Test Movie:" Play in external player "

In the top menu,
choose Project > Test Movie (F5)



- Suresh

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Simulated Consciousness

Thinking about my upcoming talk on the "augmented reality" ISMAR seminar I reviewed somewhat at random, if there is ever such a thing, texts that I had not visited in a long time, to see how some ideas held out or not. Sometimes we tend to think in this age of the new, that anything that is a few months old, let alone years is not really worth it. What can the past tell us anyway?

I went back to that visionary icon, Marshall McLuhan, who said in Understanding Media:

"After more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man--the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by the various media."

Who is the Vannevar Bush of today, that immersed in virtual, augmented or mixed realities, is capable to imagine the world just 10 or 15 years ahead, let alone 50 or 60? The AR apparatus of today are the equivalent of the room-sized computers that prevented the great majority to even dream what was to come. Yes, we can extrapolate in terms of Moore's law, and then the singularity like Raymond Kurzweil does, but the only thing we can see is a dense fog, populated by utopias or apocalyptic scenarios.

Francisco Gómez de Quevedo

Since reality is that which our brain perceives through the senses, it comes to reason that any enhancement of such inputs qualifies as AR. I think for example of Quevedo, one of the pillars of Spanish and World literature during the Spanish Golden Age whose Conceptismo, a metaphoric style of rapid rythm conveyed multiple meanings in a very precise manner.

He would have been an excellent interface designer in our time. But I am not talking about him for his literary genius, rather because in the early 1600's, he was a geek of sorts. Not only in mind but in looks as well. He wore one of the earliest examples of an augmented reality device, the pince-nez, or as they became known until very recently "quevedos" in honor of his name, better know to us as glasses!

In our time, our glasses are electronic, transforming the world into data that has become almost our second language, and for some others, their mother tongue. These magical-like glasses allow us not only to overlay information on our "reality" (sometimes totally obscuring it), but very importantly, they allow us to subtract information as well, revealing the substrate in the process, the structure of our very selves from where our extensions have become.

We still must choose

Urban art:Flash Mobs

What are flash mobs? you might ask. Well, visiting this site on urban crazy unusual art, I found that flash mobs are groups of people that "form and dissipate as a type of spontaneous-but-organized urban performance art. Groups of friends (or strangers) coordinate their efforts online and gather at a pre-defined time in a public space – seemingly out of nowhere. Flash mobs can be planned to do almost anything, from hijacking a furniture store to throwing a train-station dance party."

Below, watch a video of the biggest Freeze of a Flash Mob carried out in Paris of 2008, with 3000 people. Just for the fun of it.

Architecture and Storytelling: World's Tallest Tree House

I found this site about design and architecture, where they show contemporary and unusual design and architecture pieces of work and art. The story behind this tree house, the tallest in the world, is interesting: the author dreamed about it and 15 years later he turned his dream concrete, building this amazing house which is now a touristic visiting site in Crossville. Imagine the many natural "inhabitants" of the house, and what you do for "cleaning" it? Or you don't need, it's already a merge between home and nature. Cool!

"It looks downright dangerous … yet its creator claims it is divinely inspired by a vision he received in which he was told to begin building a tree house for which he would never run out of materials. 15 years, 10,000 square feet and 250,000 nails and a lot of scrap wood later, this amazing structure towers up over the very trees that support it."

View From The Front Porch

Image of a bicycle messenger delivering a message to game participants from one of the game characters,
courtesy of the website

“Building an ARG is like running a role-playing game in your kitchen for 2 million of your closest friends.” This is an observation by Sean Stewart, the principal writer an early and influential Alternate Reality Game called “The Beast”, developed to support the opening of the Spielberg film “A.I.” (2001). The story-based game was developed to be followed across a range of media, including telephones, email, fax, and a website. Stewart states that the hallmark of ARGs consist of story fragments that the audience must find and assemble, a story not bound by a medium or platform, an audience that is massive and collective which works together through the advantages of information technology, and a story which allows a key role in creating the way it progresses.

Some of the most interesting points Stewart makes about ARGs are based on metaphors. He compares Alternate Reality Games to Opera in saying,“ARGs carry on the impetus of film, and opera before it, by gathering and deploying any other artistic resource- music, costume, drama, lighting, graphics, games, clowns on unicycles with their hair on fire- to deliver the story. In fact, one of our alternate names for ARGs is ‘search operas’.” Considering the appearance of the clown, perhaps he should have added Circus, or perhaps the "Bread and Circus" of the Romans.

Another metaphor is one that he makes when discussing how computer console-based video games, requiring expensive labor-intensive graphics, are missing out on using what he calls the “Infinite resolution renderer”, the imagination of the players. Thus ARGs can use the physics and resources of the real world to support the created reality of the game world.

By giving participants an opportunity to interact with each other while playing an ARG becomes an experience, one that is both personal and shared. This Stewart likens to the old fashioned Front Porch, where neighbors could chat and share gossip, an earlier form of social platform. This analogy gives a psychological framework which makes sense in explaining how ARGs can attract many thousands of participants no matter what combinations of technologies they employ. Whether it’s a new murder mystery game called Breathe due to take place in London clubs in upcoming weeks, or a game called Something In The Sea which has been sending telegrams by bicycle messenger lately to announce news from the main character, people will want to see what’s going on from their technological front porches.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Club of Queer Trades

I've always enjoyed learning about people who are making a living or at least a partial living by creating very unique enterprises. Thus I was delightfully surprised when I began to read The Club of Queer Trades and found that it was about doing just that. Though this story was fictional, I read it with an eye towards our everyday reality and was humored when Arturo confessed that he actually tried to start a small business around the idea!

"The Club of Queer Trades is a society consisting exclusively of people who have invented some new and curious way of making money....

The candidate must have invented the way in which he earns his living.
It must be an entirely new trade.
The trade must be a genuine source of income and support the inventor."

After reading about the membership rules for being included in The Club of Queer Trades, I began to think of people living right now who are making their livings in very unconventional and yet creative ways.

The Naked Cowboy

The Million Dollar Homepage What a way to raise money for school, no?

J.S.G Boggs

Design and the Elastic Mind

After reading Arturo's post, A Place for Artists to Step In, I took a look at some of the videos posted for the "Design and the Elastic Mind" show. A video about visualization introduced me a work of Laura Kurgan called "The Million Dollar Block Project". In this project, Kurgan creates a map that is divided into city blocks. The blocks where one million dollars or more is spent on keeping people in prison or taking care of people between prison terms are colored red. Such places as Brooklyn, with over 300 such blocks, suddenly become difficult to ignore. This project succeeds in taking a lot of information, condensing it, and making it visually accessible with few words of explanation needed. The curator points out that though it would be easy to ignore such information if it were mentioned in the daily paper, it is difficult to ignore the same information when presented in such a powerful way. She goes on to say that such methods give designers power to influence policy.

I'd like to learn more about data visualization and take a look at Processing. Ben Fry, working with this concept, made a work that showed how chimps have only 9 different genes than humans. Though I've heard this before, I've never seen a visual representation of the information. Now that I have, the information has become much more meaningful and will stick with me at a deeper level. Next time I look at a chimp, I'll remember no doubt remember this work and look at the chimp in a new way.

In another video that talked about 3-D modeling I was introduced to 3D printing. This allows designers to design objects in the air with the motion of their fingers. A sketch is simultaneously rendered in the computer at the same time. This sketch can be sent to a resin/laser chamber where such objects as furniture can be "carved" with lasers. I found the process fascinating, though I can't say that I actually liked the end result.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"The Scrupulosity of Old Maids"

"A True Victorian Cuts a Disreputable Author"
by G.K. Chesterton
Image from the G.K. Chesterton Archive at the
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts
Merrimack, New Hampshire

For me, reading G. K. Chesterton’s The Club of Queer Trades was like returning to the home of a childhood friend many years after departing. Much of my childhood was spent spellbound by the books of British authors such as Kenneth Grahame (author of Wind In The Willows and my childhood favorite, The Reluctant Dragon), A.A.Milne (The House At Pooh Corner), and Arthur Conan Doyle (The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes). These works whetted my appetite for tongue-in-cheek witticisms, whimsy in the service of social commentary, characters limned through accretions of exaggerated detail, and understated urbanity. As time passed, I continued to discover other brilliant novelists or fantasists with similar abilities with the turn of a phrase: Barbara Pym, Mervyn Peake, and J.R.R. Tolkein. And, of course there was Dickens. Who else could have a character die of spontaneous combustion and manage to make it hilarious as well as macabre, as he did with the evil rag and bone merchant in Bleak House?

Elements of the plot of The Club of Queer Trades are reminiscent of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story, “The Red-Headed League”, in which a man is hired by a firm which turns out to be a front for a group of bank robbers. Conan Doyle was about 15 years older than Chesterton, and was clearly influential, but the main characters in the later work, two brothers, come at the task of resolving the mysterious events from two opposing points of view with the logical one always arriving at the incorrect conclusions. Chesterton writes, “His brother Basil said of him: ‘His reasoning is particularly cold and clear, and invariably leads him wrong. But his poetry comes in abruptly and leads him right.’”

More surprising was recognizing a passage in The Club of Queer Trades as a possible basis for the Monty Python skit named The Ministry of Silly Walks:

"Yes," replied the dead voice of the woman without an inflection to suggest that she felt the fantasticality of her statement. "He was standing on the left leg and the right drawn up at a sharp angle, the toe pointing downwards. I asked him if his leg hurt him. His only answer was to shoot the leg straight at right angles to the other, as if pointing to the other with his toe to the wall. He was still looking quite gravely at the fireplace.

Interestingly, the same gift for verbal caricature found in Chesterton is also found in the writings of Mervyn Peake, which may have something to do with the fact that both were accomplished illustrators as well as writers. Peake is best known for the Gormanghast Trilogy, consisting of Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone. Like Chesterton, Peake was known to illustrate his own unique literary contributions, and was able to paint very accurate pictures with words:

Barquentine, whose head was on a level with the banisters, put out a tongue like the tongue of a boot and ran it along the wreckage of his dry and wrinkled lips. Then he took a grotesque hop forwards on his withered leg and brought his crutch to his side witha sharp report. Whether his face was made of age, as though age were a stuff, or whether age was the abstract of that face of his, that bearded fossil of a thing that smouldered and decayed upon his shoulders- there was no doubt that archaism was there, as though something had shifted from the past into the current moment where it burned darkly as though through blackened glass in defiance of its own anachronism and the callow present.” (The Gormenghast Novels, 1995, p.528)

In my opinion, there is a similarity of the precise expression of detail and of humor in the work of both authors.

The structure of Chesterton’s piece, presenting stories leading to other stories, sets up possibilities for plot directions and character interactions that come about through tangential narratives. His playful approach to the story, employing plot twists and surprising conclusions, encourage the reader to come along for the ride with an open mind to possibilities. This may also be why Chesterton seems to have influenced authors ranging from Tolkein to Orson Welles to Neil Gaiman.

In a 2007 interview concerning the publication of her book, Chesterton and Tolkein As Theologians, Alison Milbank described how one author’s ideas built upon the others. A Lecturer in Literature and Theology at the University of Nottingham, she observes:

“It’s interesting that Tolkien is anxious to state that his view of the role of fantasy goes beyond that of Chesterton – this shows to me how closely influenced he feels himself to be. So Tolkien says that Chestertonian fantasy shows you the actual world from a new angle but thoroughgoing fantasy is like opening a box that allows out new things and releases them from our ownership of them. This is a really philosophical statement. The Enlightenment philosopher Kant said we have no access to things in themselves, and all we have is our own perception of the world. This leads to an alienated form of knowledge. Tolkien, following Chesterton, is a realist in a philosophical sense, because he thinks that we can be aware of a world beyond our own perceptions. Paradoxically, fiction – creating your own fantasy world – is not a way of owning your own private reality but setting the things in that world free”.

The idea of freeing one’s perception of reality and trying to see what is perceived from different angles, as in the work of Douglas R. Hofstadter, may be G. K. Chesterton’s most lasting contribution to the world of Interactive Storytelling.


Alternate Reality Games

I found this interesting video publicizing the alternate reality game "The Pirates Society". Everything looks so real, mysterious and challenging. And adults got involved in this for weeks. I wonder how much people pay to get involved in those games? It must be really expensive, taking in account all the real things that need to be set up. All in the name of adventure and mystery, feeling you are part of a real film. I was thinking, in relation to interactive storytelling, how much of the sequence of events in the game can be changed, and even if the end of the game can be changed by participants or not.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Place for Artists to Step In

I liked a phrase that Shamar used in her response to the post Powering a Nation. It reminds us of the very critical role that designers play not only in creating form and functionality but most importantly in revealing that which is very easily hidden under bloated graphics, poorly understood color theory, use of needless data and even deceptive information.

Visualization can obscure and misled or can have a profound effect on decision makers, enable discovery and influence society. The fluid nature, speed, amount and constant morphing of the incoming data require extremely powerful tools. We have those tools, but it is sometimes difficult if not impossible to realize the power of a single click of a mouse, a minimal interaction akin to a little stone that as it rolls down the mountain of data creates a drowning avalanche of information.

In "Critical Visualization" by Peter Hall, one of many essays on design published by the Museum of Modern Art (NY) in "Design and the Elastic mind" , Hall discusses strategic opinions which run counter to "...the current impulse to begin a visualization with the data itself". He interviews Ben Fry, which together with Casey Reas developed processing, the open source graphic programming environment which many artists, scientists and designers use, among other things, to visualize information:

"Storytelling winds up being the crux of this stuff...Most often I work with people coming from the engineering side, and there's a tendency for them to say 'I have a whole bunch of information and data-what do I do with it?' Their starting point is a pile of stuff that they want to make something interesting and clear out of. But it winds up being the opposite. I'm much more interested in getting people to think about what kind of story they want to tell, or what kind of narrative they're trying to pull out, and working backwards from that, back to the data."

A perfect example of this approach is the famous Cholera Map devised by John Snow in 1854. In a chapter about Displays of Evidence for Making Decisions, Edward Tufte, one of the foremost experts in information design and visual literacy examines "the statistical and graphical reasoning used in making two life-and-death decisions: how to stop a cholera epidemic in London during September 1854; and wether to launch the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986. By creating statistical graphics that revealed the data, Dr. John Snow was able to discover the cause of the epidemic and bring it to an end. In contrast, by fooling around with displays that obscured the data, those who decided to launch the space shuttle got it wrong, terribly wrong."

At the center of the map (Broad and Cambridge streets) you can see a dot marking the location of a community water pump. Snow marked the deaths from cholera along with the locations of all the community water pump-wells.

So Snow had a "good idea"" , a story to tell, a causal theory, and that, guided him to assemble the data that proved his theory using a "clear logic of data display".

Shamar goes on to say in her post: " People don't need more information. What they need is less information that speaks more powerfully to them."

I cannot agree more, and yes this is the Place for Artists to Step In. I would only use the term designers instead, to encompass basically all of us.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Toulouse, France, IntuiLab is a leader in the design and development of surface computing-based applications. Through IntuiFace, the company’s portable, scalable and extensible software surface computing platform, IntuiLab delivers and deploys applications that bring tangible returns on investment to its clients by providing their customers and users with a more natural, immersive and memorable interactive experience.

Virtual games at your fingertips.

Or perhaps Medical students can perform virtual autopsies?

The Virtual Autopsy Table from NorrköpingsVisualiseringscenter on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The other side of Real

Just a little virtual, brecht food for thought...

From Spielberg's A.I.

In G. K. Chesterton's short story "The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown" which is part of this week's reading "The Club of Queer Trades" we can see a prediction of the ARG (Alternate Reality Game) concept which uses the world as platform.

Like Sean Stewart said in an interview, talking about ARG's ; "...The initial conceit of AI ( the Steven Spielberg film Based on Brian Aldiss's short story Super-Toys Last All Summer Long) is that it’s storytelling as archeology—or, possibly, the other way around. That is, you work out a story, you create all the evidence of that story, then you smash the evidence into a thousand teeny bits and sprinkle it around and people gather it up, put it together again and argue about what it must have meant about the civilization. Everything you find is real within the fictional bubble of the story.

Storytelling as archeology and Real life as a medium, that seems to be one of the main characteristics of Interactive Storytelling in many ways. Thinking about possible antecedents to ARG's and IST Bertolt Brecht's theatrical forms come to mind. His (successful) attempts to break the so called "fourth wall" and directly engage the audience. seems to predict the ARG concept.

I also remember a film that caused a great impression in my :-) young impressionable mind in 1968, "The Magus" with Michael Caine and Anthony Quinn. This film was based on a novel by John Fowles that dealt with a "behind the curtain" dark psychological manipulations which blur the distinction between fiction and reality (I won't spoil it for you if you want to read it or watch the film). The trickster in the story resembles in a way the role of the Game Master in ARG's.

Many years ago (1988) I worked for a game company that ran an online science fiction "space conquest game"" (AOL's QuantumLink) which provided a model that let the audience influence the storytelling in a very direct way by interacting with us, (the main characters in the game) that had to respond daily to situations created by the users of the game by literally modifyng the story, introducing new characters or situations etc. There was a phone line that connected to the mothership of the federation and if a player got through they could speak with one of the "officers" We took turns on the phone, it was fun and very exhausting! but, ooohhh, was the audience engaged!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I stumbled upon Brainloop today. This piece interests me because it shows a way to interact with the virtual world by using brain signals rather than a joystick or mouse.

Brainloop is an interactive performance platform that utilizes a Brain Computer Interface (BCI) system which allows a subject to operate devices merely by imagining specific motor commands.

In Brainloop the performer is able - without physically moving - to investigate urban areas and rural landscapes as he globe-trots around virtual Google Earth.

Response to response to empowering a nation

We have been posting some interesting ideas and initiatives on how digital media, internet, art and storytelling can serve to empower communities, foster social justice and bring awareness across boundaries. That's the other side of brainwashing money oriented evil corporations and their war games(...). I have known the work of Yann Arthus-Bertrand since his great "Earth from Above" project, which lasted 13 years. In this project and film named Home, he uses beautiful and sometimes overwhelming images to raise awareness of our place in the planet we call home, as well as the crude reality of nature destruction, natural resource depletion and chaotic urbanization. In the website, there is a link to Action Carbone, a non-profit program to combat climate change, where you can interactively calculate, reduce and offset your CO2 emissions.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Response to Powering a Nation

This post is in reaction to Powering a Nation.

Twenty days. Twenty thousand still images. A single message. Toronto Star photographer Lucas Oleniuk captures the issue of global warming in a video created entirely by using still images.

We Choose the Moon

I found this site while looking at is an interactive recreation of Apollo 11, the first mission to the moon. This site is divided into 11 stages containing animation, archival videos and mission audio. You're able to view photographs of what the original shuttle looked like throughout its different stages from lift off to orbiting the Earth. The site has links to as well, where you can view resources and reports on the mission to the moon. You're allowed to launch the shuttle and view its progress during its 11 stages. The rocket is shown blasting off into space with the audio recordings of astranauts, walking you through the mission. The shuttle goes through each step and throughout the different stages you can change your view of the shuttle. After you feel you're ready to move on you click on to the next stags. I feel this site is informative and interactive. Definitely very cool. They don't use fiducials, but you're still able to get a 360 perspective just using a different medium.

Design FLAVOR is a website similar in theory to digitalthrowup ( an interactive storytelling site created by a group during a previous semester). Designflavr, however, is far more complex. There are links that allow you to view the latest and most advanced designs by programers and digital artists. Each style you view, whether traditional art, flash Web sites, CG art, illustrations, CSS Web sites, etc. displays work by various artists. You can click on any of the art work and you will be linked to that artist/programmers Web page. There are tons of fascinating designs and for anyone trying to develop their own site, Designflavr is a mecca of inspiration. It's interactive in the sense that you may upload your work, make comments, and create blogs on design topics and everything in between. Check out the site, I find it to be inspirational, you may too.

Powering A Nation

Here is a project developed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to both educate the public and to provide a forum for interaction about the interconnectivity of established practices involving the oil industry. I think the Flash-based animation is a very effective way to present this information, most of which we have seen in other text-based formats. It is presented as a way for others to tell their stories as a journalistic initiative.

Sands of Silence

Draxtor Despres talks to Spanish-American documentarian Chelo Alvarez-Stehle about her project on sex-trafficking, called "Sands Of Silence", which will be accompanied by a flash-based game.

Projects like this allow me to see the potential that games have to teach people about the world around them. In Randy Pausch's lecture about achieving childhood dreams, he talked about how people can be tricked into learning. Obviously, when learning becomes fun, information is absorbed much more effortlessly. Shouldn't learning be like this anyways? It shouldn't have to become a chore.

When I was doing a search for this game, I came across a blog post written by a youth organizer who was trying to get together a global collective of undocumented youth bloggers. The blogger was concerned about who exactly would use the game and whether it could be marketed. The blogger also said...

"...if we cannot truly help, inspire and activate the ‘subjects’ of the gameplay, we aren’t really succeeding in creating a successful game, all things considered."

However, I can't say that I agree. Just because someone doesn't turn around and become an activist working to stop sex-trafficking, does not mean that the game is not helping in some way. The game allows seeds of knowledge to be planted that may help shape the player's worldview. We cannot track exactly what may come of this. But, I'm sure that what will come of it is more than would come of a child/teen etc. sitting in front of a computer all day playing shoot-em up games that are based on pure fantasy.

SOS_Slaves Game

Lynette Wallworth: Empathy and Empowerment in Interactive Storytelling

I am so glad I stumbled upon this artist, Lynette Wallworth, while searching the web. I love how she uses dark space, community, and simple images to really draw the audience into her works. Rather than create artwork to be merely viewed and appreciated from afar, Wallworth creates spaces that only come to life through interaction with others and the artwork itself.

The bowl idea is a very simple idea. The images being projected on them are straighforward. There is not a lot of abstraction. However, when cells, and planets,and suns are held in a person's hands via the bowl and then passed on to another person, the images become so much more powerful!

I just finished reading the chapter about Char Davies and saw many similarities. For example, she talked about how when people first entered her virtual environments they had an action focused mindset. They wanted to explore and see as much as possible. After some time, they began to enjoy the experience, their presence in the space, and the present moment. Similarly, in Wallworth's space, it seems that the participants very much become drawn into the present and do not rush from one bowl to the next.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Two Amazing Videos

Two Amazing Videos that I saw this week!

1. Survival of the fittest

A small bull in Africa chased by lions, fell in river, pulled by Lions and a Crocodile from either side, then pulled out of river by lions and lions start to eat, when the Bulls come and attack the Lions; The Calf gets up and walks with its pride!

Calf's Survival in Africa

2. Brain Yoga.

Traditionally in India we were told to do 100 Ooke or Thoppu Karanam (Tamil words) in front of Lord Ganesh (The Elephant faced God) every day for good memory and to study well. Kids and people who want redemption do that sincerely and this is also a form of punishment to kids in school that do not study well.
Now the same technique is used in the USA as 'Brain Yoga' that is showing amazing Brain power improvement as shown in the CBS video

Ooke or Thoppu Karanam as Brain Yoga

- Suresh

The fiducial explosion

It should be apparent by now that fiducials, tracking and sensing are some of the new elements that will pervade the computing environment as additional extensions of our senses. In a way it is the computer's way of making sense (with help from humans for now) of the world they co-inhabit with the carbon based creatures.

Here are some early examples, most of them including animation and different 3D environments, like VRML:

Don't disregard them because of their crudeness in some cases. Remeber this is an emergent technology. When the game of Pong came out and everybody went pong-crazy, nobody could remotely imagine the simplest 3D game that we know today.
Based on the exponential curve of the technology it won't take but a few years for this early examples to fall in that category. And we will say the same thing; nobody could imagine what has come out of it!.

Make sure to watch the end of the drawing demo.

Getting serious:-) Also watch the second half of this one. In general they are long because at this stage users are fascinated and they can't get enough. Like Arthur C. Clark said in his three "laws" of prediction:
  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dream Dealer - Movie

I saw the movie 'Sleep Dealer' at the Florida Musium of Arts on Sat 03-Oct-2009 and met its director Alex Rivera. He told us how he made his idea into a movie - He got the idea - outline in 1997 and was curious to know how SciFi is viewed by people from developing countries. So he wanted to develop a near future SciFi as perceived from South of the Border to the US.
With the help of Sun Dance Institute he found the right connection to develop the story and a Producer and made the movie and released it in 2008 (Almost 10 years since the first idea.).
The movie was completed within $2 Million.

In my opinion it was a very nice movie that captures meticulously the dangerous power of Corporations. Some of the scenes that show this idea are:

Computer - Node communication that threaten the heroin that all her things will be thrown out for delay in payment.
Kill ordinary people as threat to security.
Reduce (adjust) salary for few seconds of non-work.
All work (even Physical work) done through Robos by the use of cheap labourers that control the Robos according to the Corporations' requirements from outside the USA. (So no illegal immigrants as well as NO WORK FOR Americans also).

- Suresh

More for your Hearing Sense

Alright, check this out. The latest in "reactive" music.

RjDj, (From what I understand), is a new iPhone App that allows you, the user, to create your own interactive sound experience. Create your own scenes by "using sensory input to generate and control music as you listen."

I'm having a hard time describing it, more than what the author of the website describes, so your best bet is to watch some of this video, below.

An Audio-Story Experience

Found this earlier today--it's an company providing audio tours--unique guides that allow you to "step into the life of a narrator as they guide you through their neighborhood streets and local hangouts."

The company is called SoundWalks, and the tours "mix fiction and reality in a cinematic experience giving the listener the impression of actually being in a film."

Audio for tours is currently available in New York, Beijing, Paris, and a few more places.