new interface

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

moodMixer, for mp3 player and library




Music is an intensely social and emotional medium, yet the typical interface design for a digital music library (such as iTunes) is text-heavy, list-based, and closed to social interaction. moodMixer is a prototype visual/emotional/social interface for an mp3 player and personal music library, that dynamically leverages crowd-sourced, social data from Last.fm. The software acts on a user’s existing music library, compiling a list of songs and accessing a data set of user-generated tags for each song from Last.fm, via that site’s API. For each song in the user’s library the set of tags is evaluated for keywords relating to emotion. Each song is sorted into one of 8 emotional categories: aggressive, chill, gloomy, melancholy, hyper, happy, romantic, and sexy. Each emotion is assigned a color code. In the interface, by clicking on color-coded blocks, the user simultaneously defines his or her mood (current or desired) and creates a novel playlist of randomly generated songs, reflecting his or her mood. The feedback is immediate and highly visual, and includes a clear temporal element: the color arrangement within the playlist indicates how the mood of the music will change over the length of the playlist. Within the player, the individual tags from the Last.fm data set scroll across the screen, adding a social, almost conversational feel to the listening experience. moodMixer combines the popular random shuffle feature with mood categorization and social data, enabling users to make a more satisfying mix without the effort of handcrafting a playlist.

This project was independently conceptualized, designed, and coded in Java/Processing during an internship with the Creative Systems Group at Microsoft Research, Summer 2009. Thanks to Shane Williams and Tom Bartindale for their support and assistance with this project.


Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Voodoo Buddy, a networked wireless voodoo doll

As a critique of our culture of constant, instant contact and ubiquitous spam, we updated the voodoo doll for contemporary forms of communication. A human presence can be contained in an image, or in a three-dimensional representation: a statue or doll. These forms abstract presence, condense it, symbolize it. The power of representation is in this concentrated “second” presence, extracted and separated from the original. In Voodoo Buddy, presence is (mis)placed into a miniature physical form, a doll. This usually friendly, cuddly plaything becomes an agent of misery and annoyance. Users enter the email address and phone number of their victim into the web interface. When the Voodoo Buddy is pricked with a pin, and the output is annoying spam, disturbing email images, and disquieting text messages and phone calls channeled to the victim. Users beware! Your Voodoo Buddy could turn on you– prick too often and the doll might take your picture and send it to your victim, revealing your identity. The handmade doll integrates an Arduino microcontroller, a BlueSmirf BlueTooth unit, and a wireless camera with php and asterisk phone server coding.

A schematic shows the inner workings of Voodoo Buddy. The doll contains a microcontroller, conductive padding in several areas, and a tiny surveillence camera. The doll essentially acts as a switch. When users hold the doll in one hand, they make contact with a metal pad at the back of its head. When the user pricks the doll with a pin held in the other hand, they close the switch and complete a circuit– a very small, imperceptible current (or “curse”) runs through the user’s body. The microcontroller inside the doll registers this current, and wirelessly sends signals to the Voodoo application running on a nearby computer. Feedback (which is randomized) is then sent to the victim– it may be an emailed image or message, a text message, or a phone call (mediated by the Asterisk server) that plays a disturbing recording. Excessive pricking of Voodoo Buddy increases the chances that the camera in the doll’s eye will be triggered, taking a photograph of the user and sending it on to the victim. In this way, the doll takes revenge.

Click to see Voodoo Buddy in action. Video courtesy of Gizmodo.


Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Feedback Playback

Feedback Playback is a dynamic biofeedback action movie viewing and re-editing system. In the system, the users’ physical state determines the visceral quality of movie scenes displayed; immediate reactions to the scenes feed back to generate a cinematic crescendo or a lull. We used material that is rigorously narrative, formulaic, and plentiful: the action movie series Die Hard, starring Bruce Willis.

In FeedBack PlayBack, the cinematic converges with the physical present, exploiting the power of fiction to manipulate and alter our state of being at the most basic, primal level. We attempt to synchronize the media and viewer– whether towards a static loop or a explosive climax.

The system consists of 1) a panel for user input– we use Galvanic Skin Response, which measures arousal via skin conductivity. GSR is the same type of data collected in lie detector tests. In this case, we measure GSR across the fingertips. The panel contains a microcontroller which connects to a laptop inside the panel enclosure. 2) A library of short clips from the Die Hard movies, each about 10 to 5 seconds long, and sorted into high, medium, and low– or hard, medium, and soft–action/arousal categories. 3) An Open Frameworks application that manages the library, and displays clips according to GSR input. 4) A monitor on which the clips are displayed, as well as information (graph and score) of the user’s response, in real time. This project was developed in collaboration with Che-Wei Wang.


Monday, February 14th, 2011

Disaster Boat!: anxiety-enacting video object

boatMovie from zannahlou on Vimeo.

My slapdash model ship, made out of cardboard and masking tape, was set it to sail on video sea and sunk in a storm of pixels, in a rehearsal of the disaster fantasies of my coastal New England youth.

The boat was constructed from readily available household/schoolroom materials: this fantasy is rooted in my elementary school days, when poster paint and masking tape were craft-project standbys. The object serves as projection surface; all details of the boat were executed in vector graphics, aligned to the object, and then integrated into the video itself. Sea footage was borrowed from popular disaster films and TV nature specials.



All content © Copyright 2017 by Zannah Marsh.
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