Eyeo conference highlights

Every summer the Eyeo Festival assembles an incredible set of creative coders, data designers and artists in Minneapolis. This year, three of us had the opportunity to attend. Here are some of the highlights from my perspective:

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One of the first workshops I attended was Kyle McDonald’s “Glitch”. Kyle presented fairly common examples of glitches taking form in kiosks and signage. Sometimes they appear in marques that show jumbled text instead of when the next train was arriving or a Windows error message that is sitting right on top of the gate your flight is departing from. While most people would just consider the screen to be broken, Kyle explained that these glitches were actually revealing how the systems behind the kiosks were working.

In the workshop, we explored a few methods of discovering and creating our own glitches in audio files and images. Using some software tools,we were able to modify data of some common file types. To us it looks like long pages of random characters but to the computer these files are the holding pixel colors and audio tones. We experimented with modifying chunks of the data to see how the files were affected. In images we would see color shifts or just static and in audio files we would see similar results in the form of noise or random volume changes. From the glitches we made we could start to see some patterns that hint to how the different file types store their data and how they were interpreted by the computer.

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In the end this, workshop was a bit of an eye opener. I didn’t think much of glitches other than what I would see at face value, but for the rest of the week I couldn’t help but notice them throughout Minneapolis and try to figure out what was causing them. When developing applications, we always run into unexpected results and have to figure out how to prevent them. This workshop took this approach and turned the tables, instead of trying to fix glitches we got to create them.
We Can Dance

Midweek I attended a talk titled “We Can Dance” from the founders of the design studio Daily Tous Les Jours, Mouna Andraos and Melissa Mongiat. Their studio has a number of projects that do an amazing job bringing strangers together to create something larger through dance and interaction.

Mouna and Melissa, walked through some of their challenges in creating Kit Operette. This experience installation encouraged participants take on roles of a operetta through interactive props. These props controlled different characters or elements that collectively formed the production.

 

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They discussed designing and selecting props that were intuitive and symbolized the elements they controlled. A ping pong table was used to control the protagonist and antagonist of the opera. As the paddles struck the ball, the characters would switch who was singing. They also suspended umbrellas and pom poms for the others to use to control the various characters and elements of the production.

In many of our own projects, we spend a great deal of time trying to make interactives fun and exciting. It was great to hear about their strategy encourage their audience out of their comfort zones and work together to create a performance.
Robert Hodgin

The last day of the festival had a bit of a schedule change which resulted in Robert Hodginspeaking at the closing of the festival. Robert presented some of his recent simulation projects along with some humorous commentary on his coding process. I found the Boil Up project for the Auckland Museum, to be intriguing. This was a highly realistic simulation in curved projection modeling of the defense mechanism for a school of fish that are being threatened by a predator, known as a bait ball.

Robert started explaining some of the basic rules he used for creating particle systems, that would evolve into the different types of simulated fish. Each particle would have rules for how close or far it should travel to other particles.

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With additional tweaking Robert was able to create swarms that more closely resemble the patterns of fish. These particles were soon replaced by 3d models that transformed the computer simulation into a stunning experience. Robert explained a few more details about making the fish look more realistic by tweaking lighting, adding imperfections, and giving the fish a natural swimming motion. He eventually moved on to adding the predators of the bait ball which included sharks, dolphins, and birds. The sharks and dolphins followed similar rules as the fish just with a few adjustments and a greater repelling result when they came close to the fish. Robert also explained his difficulties with the bird since their movements were much more complex than the sea creatures and required a very different approach to controlling their movement.

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Listening to how Robert approached the Boil Up project was very impressive. Since I have not have not had much experience in this type of project, having someone explain their approach made me think this might be a slightly less impossible task.

It was really exciting to see all the creative approaches from the speakers. Seeing how they experimented and solved some of their toughest problems was a great take away from the week. The best part of this festival is that is really sparked our team’s creative side. Since getting back home we has been coming out with so many new ideas. We are all very excited to see what comes up for next year’s Eyeo.