Assault On The Senses: A Review Of ITP's 2012 Spring Show

<p>A roundup of the best projects seen at NYU&#8217;s Interactive Telecommunications Program&#8217;s (<span class="caps">ITP</span>) spring showcase.</p>

May 16 2012, 10:43pm

Every semester NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) hosts a two-day showcase featuring their students’ zaniest of tech marvels for the public to see. Upon entering this year’s show, held this past Monday and Tuesday, I was greeted with a wonderful assault on the senses. The array of Kinect sensors, 3D printing, and musical robotics was overwhelming and damn near titillating to the geek within me. This is no amateur hour at The Apollo. Need I remind you that Dennis Cowley, co-founder of Foursquare, is an ITP Alumn. Instead, the students are groomed and encouraged to create innovations that overlap between the physical and virtual. Red Burns, founder of ITP calls the showcase “an exhibition of the imagination” and stresses the importance of playful creation.

I had a chance to speak with one of this year’s curators and ITP resident Rune Skjoldborg Madsen about the new trends in this year’s showcase. He highlighted the increased presence of physical data sculptures, made possible by the lowered cost and increased access to technologies such as Microsoft Kinect and laser cutting machines. He added, “Instead of doing graphics on the screen, students have now embraced these cheaper and simpler machines that can produce physical objects, changing the type of projects we see in this year’s show.” From what I could tell, the showcase aims to remind the public that users aren’t only consumers of technology but also the creators and manipulators of it.

There had to have been at least 40 installations on display, which is more than my measly noggin could take in. Take in a few of our favorites below.

Nicholas Johnson and Byung Han Lim: Dreaming Maestro

Dreaming Maestro explores how conductors move and allows users to get a sense of what that looks and feels like. A Kinect camera tracks users’ hand gestures and then triggers audio samples and creates visualizations. The idea is to go beyond the human-computer interaction of a keyboard and mouse. By waving your arms, Johnson says “it allows users to understand how they’re controlling the technology instead of letting the technology control them.” For those actually training to become conductors, the cool thing about the visualizations generated from Dreaming Maestro is that they can serve as a teaching tool for illustrating what motions are being created versus what patterns should be created.

Bobby Genalo: Artphones

Why can’t my cell phone take the form of a hamburger? Bobby Genalo went to a 3rd grade classroom and asked students to create their own version of a walkie talkie. He says that the main idea behind Artphones is “to let both children and adults know that ridiculous ideas could be possible.” After the grade schooler’s sketched some ideas, Genalo was able to use 123D Catch 3D modeling software to scan the drawings, then used a MakerBot to create 3D printouts, leaving enough room inside to stuff batteries, speakers, and a circuit board. Lo and behold, a functioning hamburger phone was created.

Nick Yulman: Bricolo

Bricolo was the first creation I stumbled upon at the showcase. It’s a mechanical music system designed to make it easy for musicians to incorporate robotics into their setup. Creator and musician Nick Yulman describes his system as being able to interface with any music production platform and turn any physical object into a sound source, explaining: “You can turn any object into a synthesizer.” With a few components and a midi sequencer, you can actually control the physical world. Here’s a quick demonstration:

Avery Max: Neon God

Due to the density of infrared noise emitted from neighboring installations, Neon God was not in full effect. However, I’m a sucker for anything that’s giant and neon. Neon God, created by Avery Max, is an interactive mirror that uses a Kinect camera and electric luminescent wires to create a reflection of the viewer onto the piece. It’s color-coded with pervasive icons that light up your silhouette with symbols of love, wonder, evil, happiness etc.

Matt Richardson: Descriptive Camera

As camera lenses get sharper and megapixels grow in resolution, it seems strange to work in reverse and have photos described in words rather than produced as images. Matt Richardson’s Descriptive Camera tells a story about each photo in approximately 180 characters and is told from the point of view of a complete stranger. This is how it works: once the photo is taken, the image is processed by an individual from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service (or one of Richardson’s own friends) who writes a description of the photo, which then spools out of the camera’s built-in thermal printer. Check out more disruptive cameras on the blog.

See all of the projects at ITP’s 2012 Spring Show here.


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