January 31, 2000
Plasm: In the Breeze
A Proposal for Installation in the Art Gallery, SIGGRAPH 2000
- 1. Project name:
- "Plasm: In the Breeze"
- 2. Primary contact:
- Peter Broadwell
- 2325 Cornell Street
- Palo Alto, CA 94306-1314
- Vox: +1.650.856.6550
- Fax: +1.408.955.3030
- Email: email@example.com
- 3. Overview:
- Plasm: In the Breeze harkens back to the tire swings of our youth. Using a pair of
physical tire swings viewers influence the rendering of a synthesized creek. Swinging out
over the imagery, their passing leaves phosphorecent ripples in the "water"
below, as they "joust" with the a-life teeming through the "creek".
The swings are physically coupled, so the body action of one swinger effects the path of
- 4. Description of the experience:
- Viewers are enticed to wander onto the floor of projected imagery and take a swing on
one of the two single rope swings. As they swing in different directions they will notice
they are leaving traces of their passing on the underlying scene, their shadow on the
floor acting as a paintbrush, stirring up the flow of images below. Less adventurous
viewers can participate by helping push the riders around, or verbally encourage them to
try and effect some particular change.
- 5. Description of how attendees will interact with your exhibit:
- Like the slow, pendulous, swings out over the creeks of our youth, Plasm: In the Breeze
is very easy to engage, you just hop on and swing. This full body involvement offers
a more visceral interaction with the display than the usual "hands at a
distance" interface. Visitors can jump on easily, and will tend to move along after
they have had enough, providing an accommodating means of crowd control. When no one is
swinging, the "creek bed" will cycle through recent and favorite sequences
from past performances. As the two swings are hung from a connected structure they will
interact in ways similar to swings hung on different, nearby tree branches. This
will make each viewer's experience dependent on the other's swinging/hopping behavior,
adding to a sense of mutual engagement.
- 6. What the installation looks like:
- A slightly darkened area with white carpeting is illuminated by two overhead video
projectors. In the center of each projected image hangs a single rope swing with a disk
large enough to stand on at the bottom of it.
- 7. Description of the look/sound/feel of the computer-generated material:
- The swings will be instrumented to allow their position and occupant weight to be fairly
accurately determined. These parameters will be fed into various themed image generation
routines to drive the projectors. A simple example is one that just leaves a trace of the
riders path behind in the projected image. More complex is one that uses the position to
control a "flashlight" that is illuminating an underwater scene. This imagery
has to be fairly coarse/easily understood since fine details will not be evident in the
nap of the carpeting. Other imagery may consist of a 3D rendered ever receding crevice,
fields of flowers erupting with constantly changing colored blooms, simple ripples like
those left by a duck taking off over a still lake... we plan on having several
entertaining selections to cycle between.
- 8. Description of the potential cultural impact:
- Today's society is getting more and more computerized. During this transformation,
person to person contact is becoming increasingly stylized. Plasm: In the Breeze, instills
a playful/personal air into the user/computer mix as a direct antidote to the formality of
so many modern interfaces. We are using three distinct approaches towards this end. -
"Meeting at the creek" evokes a shared experience, totally missing in today's
encounters with machines. - The explicit abstraction used to convert swinging motions into
imagery control parameters challenges the one-to-one mapping of conventional machine
control. - Full body engagement sensing allows for a multiplicity of inputs at one time.
We believe each of these approaches reveals an important experience for people to
encounter. Taken all together they may cause folks to think twice about their daily
routine with their machines.
- 9. Background and history:
- Who created the project?
- "Plasm: In the Breeze" is the latest in the Plasm series, a progression of
first-person interactive art installations begun in 1985. The Plasm crew has evolved
continually over the life of the series. Artists for "In the Breeze" are Rob
Myers, Peter Broadwell, Rebecca Fuson and Delle Maxwell.
- Where was it created (organization/context)?
- Over 15 years and 8 public installations, the Plasm series has established its own
context, weaving together a collective passion for public encounters with high technology,
multi-user shared spaces, self-motivated artificial life forms, emergent behaviors in
virtual ecologies, whole-body input techniques, and haptic interfaces. Plasm is a
moonlight project, created in off hours at the crews' studios, offices, and homes.
- What are the goals/mission of this project?
- - Pursuit of the artistic and playful, seeking to counter the often dreary and sometimes
objectionable uses computers are put to.
- - Extend the vocabulary of interface techniques. Explore the use of force-sensing
technology to detect subtle body-stance input in an un-self-conscious interface.
- - Anticipate the future. Explore the real-time adaptive media all desktop machines will
be capable of a few years hence.
- Who is the target audience for the project?
- Those SIGGRAPH attendees who are willing to wander by "Plasm: In the Breeze"
and engage in the novelty, aesthetics and experience of our interface.
- What innovations have been employed in terms of development methodology and new
- - Harnessing the user's swinging and hopping as input parameters without the hassle of
"suiting up" devices
- - The swings cover more area than a simple magnetic sensor can sense easily and we don't
want to be worrying about visual occlusion that might allow optical tracking...
fortunately Space Age Controls, a company in the LA area has just the thing - a
displacement measurement device that is sensitive enough to track the swing position up
near the pivot point.
- - Internet-based coordination during development
- - Adaptively animated imagery based upon artificial life algorithms, reaction diffusion
equations and others.
- 10. Technical information:
- 2 - Silicon Graphics 320's perform the image generation and massage the sensor input
into meaningful control parameters. The two machines share data across a dedicated
- 2 - Sony DLP3000's, very bright projectors that can be mounted overhead easily.
- Custom software for the sensor massaging, image generation, sound management.
- Overall framework will use the Blendo media synthesis engine: A real-time scene
generator and video compositor, developed at Sony's US Reseach Labs, and proposed for X3D,
the Web3D Consortium's planned successor to the VRML97 delarative 3D animation standard.
- 11. Operations:
- The swinging zone of the installation occupies a 20'x30' space. A 5'x5' pipe-and-drape
enclosed equipment area should be nearby. The swinging zone should be readily accessible
from many sides, so that passers-by may just walk up to the swings and enjoy the show.
Depending on the building specifics we can either support the swings with scaffolding from
below or suspend them from the building structure above. We would prefer to suspend them,
using side sway-prevention rigging to contain the extent of the swinging.
- We expect people to be engaged for one to three minutes each. The two swings allow for
multiple levels of participation; two people at a time can be actively swinging, their
friends can be giving them pushes to alter their ride, surrounding onlookers can chime in
with verbal encouragement, while the reticent just stand back watching the scene. We
expect this tiered participation to serve as a natural traffic control mechanism,
producing a continuous flow through the experience.
- Power requirements:
- Our installation will be running 2 desktop workstations with some speakers attached, 2
video projectors and some small sensor units. We estimate that 4 - 20 amp drops will be
sufficient, 2 for the workstations/speakers, 2 for the suspended projectors.
- Lighting requirements:
- Control of the overhead lighting is crucial. The overhead projection will be washed out
without carefully crafted lighting conditions.
- 12. Group profile:
- An overview of the team and its experience and background.
- Founders of the Plasm series, Peter Broadwell and Rob Myers, have been hacking at the
edges of art and technology for the past 20 years.
- Peter Broadwell holds a degree in Applied Mathematics from University of
California Santa Cruz. Presently a Thinker at Sony's US Research Laboratory's Distributed
Systems Lab he has also participated in a few Silicon Valley start-ups including Haptek,
3DO, and Silicon Graphics.
- Rob Myers has led the design and development of a wide range of real time
interfaces first at Silicon Graphics and now at Sony's US Research Labs. He specializes in
the shaping of 3D and rich media environments from teleconferencing to interactive
television to VRML. Rob's background includes 26 years of commercial graphic design
experience in print, film, video, and computer graphic media. He received his degree in
Architecture from the School of Architecture and Fine Arts at the University of Southern
- Rebecca Fuson holds a degree in Interactive Media from Mills College. She joined
the group in 1991 to field "Plasm: Above the Drome." Since the she has
contributed to 2 subsequent pieces, "Plasm: A County Walk", presented at ISEA
1994 and "Plasm: Yer Mug" show at SIGGRAPH 1996. Rebecca has been a professional
dancer, typographer and illustrator. From 1993 - 2000 she was at Interval Research where
she helped mount 3 sessions of the "New Voices, New Visions" digital art
competitions and more recently contributed to the concept design and prototyping of the
installation piece "Portable Effects". Currently enjoying a severance package
from Interval she will probably be doing something completely new by the time you read
- Delle Maxwell is a designer, long interested in the combination of 3D animation,
visualization, and user interface. She was art director on the three Geometry Center
videos that have been shown at the SIGGRAPH Electronic Theater, and at many other venues
around the world: "Not Knot", "Outside In", and "The Shape of
Space". She has also worked with the Cosmo Software group on VRML development,
showing the "Tenochtitlan " project at the SIGGRAPH Digital Bayou in New
Orleans. She also has been involved in numerous user interface design projects. In
addition to working on this project, she is currently working with the Blendo/VRML group
at SONY's US Research Labs.
- List any projects by this group or organization that have been in any part of a past
- 1985 Plasm: A Fish Sample. SIGGRAPH Art Show, San Francisco.
- 1986 Plasm: A Fish Sample. SIGGRAPH Invitational Retrospective Art Show, Atlanta.
- 1988 Plasm: A Nano Sample. SIGGRAPH Art Show, Atlanta.
- 1991 Plasm: Above the Drome. SIGGRAPH Tomorrow's Realities Gallery, Las Vegas.
- 1996 Plasm: Yer Mug. SIGGRAPH Digital Bayou, New Orleans.
Diagram of the swings