Home Chapter 7 Interactive feedback
Interactive feedback

 

 

The serious artist is the only person able to encounter technology with impunity just because he [sic] is an expert aware of the changes in sense perception.

~Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (1964)

 

Question: How do you create a timed event that is the result of pushing a button?

 

The ability to work with a microcontroller is exciting, as it will allow you to sequence and control a variety of electronic devices by programming input and output. It means that you can create interactive events that function in real-time, based on feedback and control from users. Output devices such as light emitting diodes (LED's) can be activated by a variety of switches that function as input devices.

LED’s are used extensively in the arts and industry for their beauty, their durability, there relatively low cost. Artist’s inventors have applied LED’s in imaginative ways, though controlling LED’s also implies that you will be able to control larger things.

The cognitive scientist and author Donald Norman said, “turn signals are the facial expressions of cars,” and likewise, I think we can say that LEDs are the facial expression of computers. [1]

 

Common LEDs in red, green, clear and blue. Sometimes the BLUE LED and the Green and red will appear clear as in the center image but will in fact glow these colors when activated.

 

When my computer LED flashes off - on, off – on, this feedback shows the internal state of the machine and allows us to know that all is working well. LED’s are being used increasingly in stoplights, car/truck brake lights as well as mood lighting. The next time you pull up to a stop light, take note if the old incandescent lamps are used or are there bunches of super bright red, green, or yellow LEDs? LED’s are also beneficial because they last longer than incandescent lamps because they are solid-state devices. As you recall, solid-state means they are based on semiconducting materials with no moving parts or filaments to break (as there are in incandescent bulbs). While LEDs are used as indicators of something happening or changing in machines, they can also be used as expressive tools, as you will see from the featured works below.

Artists and inventors have been using LEDs as both indicators of change and as artworks themselves in object-oriented interactive works, textile works and large scale installations.

The artist James Seawright, a pioneer in interactive artwork, speaks of new electronic ecologies in his Houseplant series. These works open at night in response to the darkness, like digital versions of a moon flower. The arrays of LED’s that James Seawright has integrated with his robotic sculptural forms flash in a random patterning, that is akin to the complex patterning that one would associate with a natural system, such as the complexity of a leaf. But here, the leaves or petals are circuit boards of LEDs that reflect the chaos of a natural system in the complex manifestation of the patterning of LEDs being turned off and on. The plants also respond to human presence as a natural plant would and manifest different behaviors, based on this interaction. However unlike natural plants their response is rapid enough for humans to perceive the changes and understand their impact on the system.

 

Houseplants series by James Seawright.1983.

 

Natural plants also respond to humans and to insects, but very slowly so their responses are generally imperceptible. [2] (Except for a Venus fly trap or a mimosa, which are relatively rapid for plants)

The artist Heidi Kumao interested in wearable computing has created a custom bra using 180 LEDs with custom electronics and a microphone, which is activated by voice. Kumao was interested in accentuating a part of the female human anatomy which she was aware people were looking at anyway, though instead she decided to humorously invite the eyes and poke fun at social conventions. The louder the voice the more the LED’s glow and at maximum volume, the nipple area glows yellow.

 

Monitor I by Heidi Kumao. Circut Design by Garth Zeglin. 2001

 

The LED’s are organized in concentric circles and the artist has provided a dial to allow you to adjust the sensitivity of the bra. The artists says, “Madonna should have one” [3]

 The Artist/Engineer Eric Singer works with creating instruments as part of the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots. He creates and innovates on acoustic instruments that function as synthesizers, though they are played from computers. As the founder of LEMUR group in 2000 Eric is the creator of the Miditron TM