Workshop Ambient Art in Eindhoven

the three speakers: Edwin, Elmo & Alex

I am just home from a really interesting mini-seminar in Eindhoven, organised during the Dutch Design Week 2005. The meeting was about Ambient Intelligence and ways in which artist make use of these tools. The organiser René Paré had invited a couple of interesting speakers to tell about their work: Elmo Diederiks from Philips Media Interaction, Edwin van der Heide, an autonomous artist that explores the relations between architecture and sound, and Alex Vermeulen, an artist working on the faultline of technology and art.

Especially interesting was a remark made by Edwin that he tried to avoid the notion of narrativity in his work, as he feels that it constrains him too much. Instead he explores the creation of interacting and learning environments.

A little more info about the workshop at:

Read the full notes I made of today below.

051018 Ambient Intelligence Eindhoven @TAC – Temporary Art Centre

// Elmo Diederiks – Philips

What is AI?
1. Embedded
2. Personalised
3. Adaptive
4. Anticipatory
It’s a new interaction paradigm: intuitive, familiar; it’s how products behave in interaction with human behaviour. (E.g. windows used at night as screens for television). How to use the environment as medium for experience. (E.g. wake-up call adapted to optimal moment, directed by brain activity).
“Augmented reality”, or “replaced reality”.
Outdoors: e.g.: personalised advertisements outdoors; buildings with projected fronts; personalised jogging laps, with timing.
In musea: personalised guided tours.

Technology enablers: what makes this all possible?

– Moore’s Law: processor capacity; disc capacity; RAM, etc. (battery capacity lags behind!!)
– Computing platforms are getting more powerful, real time, some sort of rudimentary artificial intelligence.
– Media processing/interaction technology: quality of image in video; speech recognition (problems of social acceptance in talking to apparatuses); DRM/copyright protection;
– Ubiquitous connectivity: how to connect all these devices? RFID with unique numbers;
– Storage: next step = blu ray (hi-def DVD); nano technology
– Lighting: energy efficiency and lightness of screens, esp. outdoors; solar powered.
– Displays: digital paper, large projection areas, e.g. room walls.; mood enhancing lighting while watching TV (via colour analysis of screen), needs perception research; lightning incorporated in textiles, e.g. linked with cell phone as indication. >> “Soft way of communication”.

Personalising time and experiences through technology (stopping/recording/playing a TV show with taking with you a pen from room to room).
– iCat = cute little cats with facial expressions (affective computing) – more human-like communication channels. > computers showing what they are doing in a human-like fashion, in order to change use patterns according to the state of the device, e.g. computer having a hard time doing intensive tasks and showing it. [technology dictates human interaction?!?]
– Content adapted to personal taste. Involving art.

// Edwin van der Heide – artist SON-O-House house Eindhoven
“Different perspectives to real-time”

Traditional Concert:
– fixed order
– beginning & end
– uniform experience
– composer, score, notes: it’s not about the result, the performance, but the artwork is the score, detached from performance & audience.
– architecture of the music hall creates the conditions for the performance (acoustics, quite, non-obtrusive, etc.)
– hall has a front: audience sits in same direction facing the stage.
[same characteristics as ‘narrative’, as opposed to ‘play’]

Water Pavilion at Neeltje Jans, Zeeland
“Liquid Architecture”
– space & sound content design was originally unrelated; new cooperation between architects and sound artists to create a communicating “sounding building”. Speakers integrated in building, shaped like building, hidden. Spatialised sound creating individual experiences, sensors.

Interactive architecture & sound. Visitors were challenged to relate themselves to building, building & sound is not supportive, but_IS_ the work. 24 Sensors indicate the activity across the building. Intention was to interfere with natural behaviour in building and redirect people to other parts, by using sounds. Sound was generated in RT. “Meaningful sounds” vs. “non-menaingful sounds” > building learns to control peoples behaviour, develops intelligence.
Is an ever-changing building getting the same after all?

// Alex Vermeulen

States if humanity – project: different chapters wherein content itself looks for appropriate technology to use. E.g. solar cells that generate magnetic field that can make things move > Alex made a pond filled with figures that move up when sunny and go down again in the evening.
Other project SOH 10 – the Opera: story about scientist experimenting with AI, exchanging organic material with computer, but then her brain crashes. Multimedia performance with live-edited film, story, dance, theatre, music, video.

Q: Very much supply-driven applications? Why would people want this? Is it only for ‘new experiences’?
A: Involve end-users in early stage; get ‘softy scientists’ in the company; follow marketing & consumer trends, globalisation, individualisation. E.g. ambi-light television.

Technologists know everything about small parts of making things work, artists are more generalists. Who’s in between, who translates between them? How do you integrate art & technology > through design.

Edwin tried to create a integration of architecture & sound, not sound in a room. But how do you place speakers? How do you avoid of them being perceived as objects that produce sound? One solution: use only interference, as in SON-O-House. Edwin didn’t want a narrative approach: sound telling a story and directing people through space. Instead E. created parameters that make it more complex, more room for general expression and possibility of change and learning by system. “Structural approach”, “organic”; our perceptions are often non-linear: sound between A and B is not perceived as ‘in between’, it’s another experience. Creating a changing, emerging individual experience.
How do you make change that is not equally different (i.e. at the same distance from the same)?
Q: in what way is space different, how do users experience space?
A: Very complex, no maps. Your own perspective dictates the space. BY entering, you become part of environment, influencing parameters, you’re co-responsable for next stage of the building, more or less consciously. Creating a “meaningful different context”.

Push < -> Pull: creating possibilities for users to act upon/with: appropriating the technology and the meanings it creates

Different carriers have different information possibilities: visual cues are used most of the time, auditive signals are relatively little explored.

Q: How about other senses than only visual/aural?
A: Sometimes it can be very overwhelming [sometimes technology should clearly stand apart from ourselves _as_ technology, not as part of us, because it could be too overwhelming].
Difficulty of experience: how do users perceive this?

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