VIX Sound+Light+Motion

5. Sensor Array Technology

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The Immersive Environment Instrument (IEI) will have several areas where sensors will be placed within the encircling screens. These stations will act as a “home base” for the live performer.

Types of Sensors

Sensors fall into four main categories depending on how close the performer must be to activate the control. Some sensors, such as accelerometers detect the speed of movement of the part of the body they are attached to. I call these Attach and the ones that are not on a garment are called Touch.

  1. Touch – knobs, push buttons, switches and sliding faders all require direct physical contact
  2. Attach – accelerometers, heat or moisture sensors
  3. Proximity – heat or motion detectors, commonly used in security applications
  4. Remote – gesture control, sonar sensing, camera “seeing”

Credit: Victoria GibsonThe photo above is of Pauline Oliveros and Ryan Mueller, taken in Banff,  AB in June 2009. Ryan is a computer programming student at U of Calgary and he was working in MAX/MSP Jitter, a program by Cycling 74. He was sucessful in his efforts to create a gesture control patch for the program. Here he has a webcam tracking his movements and operating various audio effects within the program. The end result is that a performer can activate events by waving a hand in front of the camera. Since that time, Ryan has been perfecting his methods and he and Pauline have agreed to share the resulting patches for use in the IEI. This is an example of a Remote sensor because the performer does not have to be close, just in view of the camera. Tracking does improve with proximity, depending on how good the resolution of the camera is.

Common Sensor Technology

Most people are familiar with motion sensors because they are commonly used in security systems, such as home alarms. Laser light beams are popular in films that feature spies or thieves, as they try to avoid the light beams that will trigger the alarm. The same sort of trigger can set off an Immersive Event and the massive investment in security technology can filter down to an artistic application. Industry has created a huge demand for these types of sensors and mass production makes them inexpensive.

Specialized Sensors

The dance community are the leaders in tracking technology and specialized sensor development. The technical challenges in tracking an entire group of atheletic dancers require sophisticated, expensive solutions. However, thanks to dedicated teams that are usually associated with major academic research institutions and universities, the technology does exist.

Support is required to assist in researching and testing the various options for use in the IEI.

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