Fy: Skin Final Report and Reflection

12:30 AM in General by Adityo Pratomo

Skin, is a mixed media screen art interaction that incorporates a physical spatial installation. In the words of Juhani Pallasmaa, “As we look, the eye touches, and before we even see an object, we have already touched it and judged its weight, temperature and surface texture.” Skin, plays with the sense of touch and bring attention to the unconscious element of touch in vision and the hidden tactile experience that defines the sensuous qualities of the perceived.


The Experience
As the viewer interacts the screen, what can be seen and defined, is a skin-like surface layered to generate the movement of the viewer. The skin fluidly reveals edges and corners, blending the texture of plastic bag to form the temporal and continuity of the viewer’s presence. The interaction with the screen can be experienced as both mental and physical, it allows exploration of the hapticity of skin screen surface. The term, haptic relates to or based on the sense of touch. For this reason, the physical spatial installation was critical in activating all the senses within a new environment. The concept-encouraged viewers to touch with their eyes and sense with their being – brings the experience to life.

To create this intended user experience, we played around with the technologies introduced to us during the course of the semester. We managed to come up with a mix of motion sensing using Kinect and Processing and physical feedback through lights using Arduino and IR sensors.

Finally, after going through the long process of creating this artwork, from its conception to creating the early prototype , testing it and then coming back with the final prototype , we then finally come to showcase the artwork to its intended audience: the public. It’s the exhibition night.

The Exhibition Night

On the night where Skin was going to be introduced to public we suffered another technical difficulties. For some reason, the LEDs that were working several minutes before our showcase suddenly died. We only managed to get 2 LEDs working from a total of 14 LEDs. But on the other hand, the screen interaction actually worked well and reactive enough to the audience’s movement. So in short, we had the screen interaction working perfectly as planned but not the physical interaction.

The effect of that condition was actually quite severe. On one hand we had two kids playing happily with I, one was even caught saying “are we inside that plastic bag?” while pointing to the plastic bags that were hung on the tree. A great response that showed that we did able to give the audience the intended experience and perception of the artwork. This also showed that the displayed texture bag could be showed quite well that the audience can actually see and judged that it was a plastic bag. I did an interview with another audience to make sure of it and she gave me a positive feedback.

Meanwhile, on the other hand, we actually had some feedback from other audiences that was saying that the whole artwork was broken simply because we only had 2 LEDs working. This then prevented the audiences from interacting with it because they saw it as a broken thing and nobody wanted to play with a broken toy. Even though we clearly had some people having fun with it.

Another thing that we examined was the fact that some people actually trying to touch the plastic bag and hoping that something would happen on the screen. When I told them that if you touch it then only the LEDs inside the bag would turn on, then they were hoping it could do more than just that. They were hoping for a dialogue between the screen and the plastic bags, not only a one-way interaction that we were providing at that night.

Things We Learned

The chance to exhibit the artwork and actually testing it to public was a great chance for us to proof our theories of what the artwork should provide as well as getting precious feedback regarding the development of the prototype. With that in mind then, having a partially working prototype and a less than positive feedback was actually something precious for us.

In the end, those weaknesses in our whole artwork then pointed us to several things:

1.     By having more elements on the environment, the audiences actually expecting more things can be done with all of those objects. A one-way interaction, or even a loose interaction on just one thing simply just won’t be enough

2.     We have something working on the screen, but the experience for the audience just weren’t enough, because it’s too easy for them, even though what we were aiming on the first place was something that the audience can easily picked up. In practice, too easy also just doesn’t cut it.

3.     The physical objects should then be able to amplify the whole experience in case that the screen failed to satisfy what the audiences were expecting. This can be reached by having a more complicated mapping between action and reaction on these objects.

4.     A better quality of the displayed texture and body form should also help entertaining the audience even better. Because then they can see that there’s an interaction between the body and the screen in a clearer view. Applying a smaller and more polygons as well as a proper shader might be helpful to reach this goal.

These points can then be regarded as the critical steps that need to be fulfilled in order to create a more engaging interactive installation for deployment in public space.

The Future

As we’ve pointed out the possible room for improvement for our installation, we’d also like to propose how the installation will fit the space of the Grid Gallery. We stay to our initial aim to light up the whole place through exploration, giving the performer (the people interacting with the installation) and the spectator (people viewing the installation without interacting with it) a chance to enjoy a brighter Grid Gallery area.

Here are our mock ups of how we will transform the Grid Gallery area

Conclusion

It’s been an interesting project to work. The chance to actually build something for the public display is quite rare especially having it tested for public. It would be even better if then in the future we can actually build upon this stage of the prototype.

Other Documentation

Here’s a link video documentation of Skin, made for a visual comprehensive introduction and demonstration of what “Skin” is

Skin from Adityo Pratomo on Vimeo.