SmartSpace: RFID art installation
SmartSpace is a media installation of Internet-connected spaces that
explore concepts of ubiquitous computing and intelligent spaces.
Using medium-range RFID technologies, these spaces know the identity of
the persons who enter and project customized animated collages of
images from history, art, fiction etc. on topics that people have
indicated are important to them. The images have been collected
via automated programs that search online image archives. It
explores both the opportunities and dangers of these technologies.
SFSU Galleries, Fall, 2008
contact: Stephen Wilson firstname.lastname@example.org http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson/
SmartSpace more information
documentation of SmartSpace Concept (mpeg4 - 5mb)
SmartSpace high resolution video and stills
concept of "smart rooms". Smart rooms are seen as a significant
future trend in the Information Technology and the architectural
The term refers to 'ubiquitous computing' environments where many of
objects and architectural features of a space are embedded with
and communication capabilities and interact with people and each other
unprecedented ‘intelligent’ ways.
It is critical that artists investigate this technology and the conceptual frameworks surrounding it. The space/room knows who is there anytime a person enters. This is accomplished through the emerging technology of long-range RFID. The installation projects animated collages of images of things that are important to the person. The installation gathers the images by using automated intelligent searchbots that exploit online image databases such as Google and Flickr. If several persons are present, it projects collages based on the profiles of all the various persons present. If the projected collages get near each other, the system uses semantic algorithms to generate additional mini-displays that visually composite the profiles of the individuals represented in each of the displays.
The systems are linked by the Internet so that anywhere there is one of these systems, they will be able to access the person's information and start generating the appropriate displays. The systems could be in different parts of a building, the city, or the world. All these smart spaces would know the person and react accordingly.
Sample of ID tag images illustrating both the opportunities and dangers
What is smart? In discussions about smart spaces and objects, the term ‘smart’ is often used without much careful analysis. Throughout history humans have had complex interactions with the spaces they move through - functional, aesthetic, psychological, spiritual... Also there has been discussion of the 'immanence' of space - that is, spaces that seemed sentient and alive. Indeed these ideas are part of the historical discourse in architecture. Intelligent spaces offer unprecedented possibilities of how spaces can interact with people and how they can facilitate interactions between people.
The SmartSpace installation aims to begin this analysis. What does it mean for a space or an object to be smart? What does it need to know about the persons it is interacting with? How does it discover that information? Does the use of technologies such as rfid, which can read presence without any special actions by the viewer enhance the semblance of intelligence?
What does a space do with that information? How does it indicate and respond to the unique identities of the people who are nearby? How does it change its actions to respond to the simultaneous presence of several persons? Most discussion in the technology development world focus on response to superficial characteristics such as sound level or light preferences. For example, a room adjusts the sound levels when a person walks in.
The opportunities and challenges of smart spaces are too profound to leave at this shallow level. The SmartSpace installation only starts these conceptual explorations. SmartSpace asks people for non superficial information – who, what, where, and when? – that is, who is their favorite artist? what is their most treasured object (sentimental or utilitarian)? where in the world are they most interested in? when was the most intriguing period in history? What could an intelligent space do with this kind of knowledge about a person’s interests and values?
Also, it has the same information about all the people in the space. What might it do with this knowledge to facilitate interactions among strangers standing next to each other? It attempts to open up the possibilities of non-trivial discussions between persons. Typically, strangers often reveal little beyond superficialities to each other Could it induce a new kind of interaction between people? (Consider that use of this kind of knowledge would be a challenge even for a person, let alone a smart room. How does knowledge of a person’s values change the way you interact with them?)
All the SmartSpace
installations are linked together by the Internet. At any moment
they know who is present in each space and
what their profile of interests are.
The network of smartSpace forms a kind of distributed
What can be done with this kind of
geographically distributed mind?
Danger and opportunity: Much
currently focused on the dangers of tracking systems such as
example, is it desirable that a space could "know" who is present and
link that presence with background information? One can easily
frightening scenarios of privacy violations by intrusive governmental
linked to networks of smart spaces. In this view artists must be
accepting the hype of increased possibility without critical awareness
underlying narratives. SmartSpace
attempts to explore both the opportunities and dangers.
It is important that artists not be totally overwhelmed by the critique. Using the technique of appropriated play, artists can participate in the research and help to elaborate possibilities outside of the commercial and technological mainstream.
Process - Illustrative Scenario:
The installation consists of several ‘smartspaces’ networked together via the Internet. Each smart space has a computer, a large display or projector, a surveillance camera, and a rfid reader (uhf medium range). The RFID readers sense visitor ID cards at a distance up to five meters and generate a variety of displays customized to which visitors are present. The spaces could be in a gallery or distributed in a building, city or anywhere in the world.
Visitors obtain id cards (with embedded RFID chips) at a signup computer, which asks them to engage a short interactive media event probing to find out what is important to them. (The signup process could be completed via a web page and the tags picked up later.) The signup computer sends the information to another computer which launches searchbot programs on the web to search image archives for images related to their indicated interests.
When no one is
present in a smart space, the display presents animated displays that
consolidate the camera images from all the smartspaces. These
images also include information about specifically who is in the other
spaces and their profiles.
Equipment support from ThingMagic, Cambridge Mass
Technical Support: Alan Giorgi, Scott Deeter; Production Support: Andrew Bramer
Grant support from Tribeca Film Institute
Multiuser telnet xtra: Dan Cummings; castxtra modifications:Valentin Schmidt; TTCxtra: Daniel Rozin; SerialXtra: Geoff Smith