Art 511: Sensor Based Events / Physical Computing

Spring, 03 Tu-Th 7-10
Professor Stephen Wilson , Conceptual Inforfmation Arts
Art Department,  San Francisco State University
FA 539 - 338-2291 -  -     Office hours tu/th 12-2 (please confirm beforehand)
No prerequisites. Priority enrollment CIA majors. Consent of Instructor
(Listed in schedule as Interactive Events)

Required Text:  Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science and Technology.  Stephen Wilson  (MIT Press, 2002)


Hands-on studio course to introduce students to techniques and aesthetics of creating experimental art/media events and installations based on technologies of motion sensing and actuation of devices. In both the art and research worlds dissatisfaction is growing with the limitations of the mouse and keyboard as computer interfaces. New technologies enable sensing of motion, location, and gesture... Similarly new paradigms of ubiquitous computing are exploring the possibilities of activated spaces in which objects are endowed with intelligence and responsiveness. This course will survey previous artistic work that investigates these conceptual spaces Familiarity with computing, interactive media, Director, and electronics will be useful but not required.

The course will use the TrackThemColors system for Director, which allows motion, and position detection from video frames. Activation of devices will use the EZ-IO board. Students without Director skills will be expected to undertake special tutorials to get up to speed so they can use the system. Consent of Instructor required.

Course Objectives

(** Since the course does require working with Macromedia Director, students without Director experience will be expected to undertake an accelerated self-initiated tutorial and pass a basic competency test.  This intermediate course will not be able to teach basic Director skills.  Also, the object activation part of the course will be using basic electronics to control devices.  The course will not be able to teach electronics.  Students will be expected to tailor their art works to the realities of what they know and what can be taught within the limits of the course.)

Course Requirements

(See Details Below in Course Assignments section)
  • Completion of readings and oral presentation to class

  • Course Themes

    Many artists have experimented with motion detection and object activation.  Further progress in this field will come from artistic clarity about rationales and metaphors used in installations that explore these technologies.  Here are some samples of possible metaphors and rationales.

    nearness/distance = visual or conceptual clarity
    nearness/distance =  positive or negative affective valence
    postition map to conceptual structure - eg changing position reveal different aspects
    read movement toward or away as change of interest/emotion
    read speed of movement as level of interest/emotion
    read left/right up/down movement as metaphor
    map objects as conceptual structure (use position as indicator of object nearness)
    read relative position of people in a space (snibbe)
    interact with static space or with projection from computer
    alternative interface for controlling web surfing
    alternative interface for controlling digital video
    commentary on surveillance (Garrin)
    synthetic character or activity follow person in projection(Krueger, Campbell)
    technology assisted dance
    motion interface for a game (keays)
    virtual tour(Benayoun)
    space as an interface to an instrument  (Rokeby, Segen, )

    control everyday electrical objects
    control signals to speakers

    Course Schedule

    1/28-30 Logisitcs.  Introduction to Motion Detection, TrackThemColors 
    (assign- read Wilson, Information Arts
     -web research on artists
    - Demo project - motion detection)
     Intro - Experiment with Motion Detection/TTC
    2/4-6 Lab Discuss Wilson reading   Present Artists from Web 
    (assign Installation Project 1)
    2/11-13 Lab  Lab
    2/18-20 Present Demo Project 1  Class
    2/25-7 Lab /artists Lab/ Artists 
    3/4-6 Introduction to Object Activation, EZIO board
    (assign- demo project 2
     - installation project 2
    - critical theory / interactivity reading
    Intro - Experiment with Object Activation
    3/11-13 Present Full Installation Project 1  Present Full Installation Project 1 
    3/18-20 SPRING RECESS--------------- SPRING RECESS-------------------
    3/25-27 Go over EZIO board demo /  (discuss Final Project )
    (assign Installation Project 2)
    EZIO l;ab/ prototypes 
    4/1-3 Discuss theory reading / Lab Present Installation Project 2 (EZIO)
    4/8-10 Carry over installation project 2 - Lab Professor in Monteal
    4/15-17 Present Preliminary Final Project Plans  Lab
    4/22-24 Lab Class
    4/29-5/1 Lab Class
    5/6-5/8   Lab Present  Final Project 
    5/13-5/15 Present  Final Project 

    Course Assignments Details

    Course Links

    TrackThemColors xtra

    EZIO Board Information

    Director / Lingo Tutorials

    Tom Igoe  course at NYU TTC page   Igoe's Physical Computing course and Links
    Dan O'Sullivan's Physical Computing course (NYU)

    EZIO board  specifications/examples  (developed by Professor Michael Rodemer U. Michigan - object activation - director  xtras)
    Wilson Guide to Using EZIO board

    Artists cxploring motion,gesture,activated objects (steve wilson)
    Links to essays in art & technology
    Research on motion, gesture, haptics
    Research on activated objects
    CIA links to sources in electronics, sensors, etc -