Before moving on to more specific details for this project, I thought it necessary to think through the fundamentals of what I want to create. I have set out to define these basic characteristics for my work – things such as the visual style I’m aiming for, the media concepts involved, and in what general way I envision the audience interacting with the work.
Firstly it’s important to think about the technologies involved. The camera-based brief and where and how I choose to incorporate this layer of interaction with the audience will at least partially define the outcome of the project, as well as the scope of possible media concepts which could be looked at. As I see it, there are really three main options which could be explored in terms of camera interaction methods.
One of these is face tracking, whereby algorithms and libraries are used to allow the camera to recognise the form of the human face. This allows for the locations of the faces of the audience to be tracked, and for this information to somehow control or alter a visual element on the display. I see this technique as having both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to this project, and audience interaction in general. The nature of the technique means that those wishing to interact with the work don’t need to have any access to additional tools, resources or skills. The use of this system revolves around the fact that everyone has a face, and therefore the means to participate in the interaction. However, a side effect of this is that the possible breadth of interactions is somewhat reduced. What I mean by this is that, if the interaction taking place is simply based on following a face, the interaction from the audience is reduced to standing in front of the display and moving around slightly, or walking past it.
The second option is brightness or colour tracking. This, similar to face tracking, also utilises algorithms to track a specific point or area in the camera’s field of view. In this case however rather than faces, the software is tracking some mixture of the brightest point or a certain colour or range of colours. This method could be argued to lend itself more to interacting with the general environment rather than individuals, as the brightest point the camera can see in the whole room would be the thing being tracked and influencing the interaction. However, it may be possible to set the work up in such a way that the environment is controlled, and the audience is provided with a bright light or coloured marker of some sort, with which they could control the interaction. This then would give the work a more personal one-on-one approach, as one person would be interacting with the display at a time as opposed to every face being recognised. While possibly making the interactive element less intuitive or harder to approach, I think that this would ultimately afford a greater freedom of interaction possibilities.
The third approach would be more along the lines of hand or full-skeleton tracking. This would be perhaps the most interesting, and would allow a number of possibilities for the method of interaction with the audience. It would, however, on a more technical note, necessitate the use of several things in the production of the work. These include a more sophisticated Kinect camera, rather than a standard web-cam, as well as more complicated and advanced libraries and programming. While a certain number of Kinect cameras are available for use, I’m unsure as to the feasibility of this approach for a number of reasons, including the necessity to do a large amount of the work over the Christmas holidays without access to university resources and facilities. I will continue looking into this method, however, I do not foresee a scenario where I would greatly prefer to use this technology over one of the other options. Hand tracking, for example, could be emulated with brightness tracking and a light held in the hand.
Ultimately, then, in choosing between the camera-interaction methods available, a choice must be made as to what kind of project I want to create. Face tracking would lend itself to a possibly more easily accessible level of interaction with the ability to be effective with a more passive audience – those that are simply walking past or standing in view of the camera. For brightness tracking to be used to interact with an audience, however, the audience would need to be given, or otherwise have access to additional tools (a light) to interact with the work. This targets a more active audience who are purposefully interacting rather than passing by. It also allows fore a more involved, deliberate feeling level of interaction.
Thinking about the space the work will be displayed in, and looking back at my analysis of it here, I have come to a conclusion. While it may seem that the prevalence of people passing through the space would point to a more passive interaction method being appropriate, the observations we made of the space showed that these people passing through the space typically don’t look at the screens, so the work would likely go unnoticed. I think therefore possibly the best approach is to create a piece of work which is intended to be purposefully interacted with. This way, the people who are in a rush to get where they’re going are left to do their thing, and those that are actually actively occupying the space and might be more inclined to interact with a display can be targeted, allowing for these people to receive a deeper level of interaction as a result.
For this reason, I will be utilising brightness/light tracking within my project as the primary method of audience interaction. I think all the choices are valid and could lead to quality pieces of work, however this approach fits more with the type of work I wish to produce.
Now, time to develop the concepts and design of the work.