Binary Face Off creates a space of creative competition and learning. Participants explore pattern, sequence, and sound in configurations that encourage gesture and cooperation. The piece represents the culmination of ideas learned from the Binary Glove and Binary Pad. The installation was part of the UCLA Design Media Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition: Tell Them Nothing of the Things I Thought About and Created While I Was Sleeping at the New Wight Gallery in June 2011.
The interface uses an Arduino board to communicate with game software written in Processing. The structure was built out of MDF and plexiglass using a router, pin nailer, laser cutter, some good friends and a lot of patience.
In June 2010, I travelled to Shanghai with students and faculty from Parsons Design and Technology MFA program. We stayed at the eARTS Center near the South Railway station where we organized an arts workshop for local college students. My group led a toy-hacking workshop. Using simple sensors and basic electronics we hacked various toys purchased downtown to create new uses and interactions without software or additional microcontrollers.
China floored me. It’s been a long-time goal of mine to travel there and it far exceeded expectations. Our trip coincided with World Cup Soccer and the World Expo. We watched live games at British pubs in the middle of the night and explored some interesting media art installations in and around the Shanghai Bund. We stumbled upon Phil Worthington’s Shadow Monsters in one small gallery. A larger exhibition featured Cao Guo-Qiang’s Peasant Da Vincis, in which he curated amazing contraptions built by outsider artists. The World Expo was exhaustive, but a few of the pavilions were beautifully executed—the UK pavilion in particular. Other highlights included exploring back alleys and side streets, locals arguing over the authenticity of my hair, an insanely massive electronics market, fantastically questionable street food, and a weekend trip south to the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou.
The Binary Glove was a lot of fun to play with—soft-touch sensors, very responsive—but it was a pain to get on and off and has really only been used by a handful of people. So I gutted it, swapped the FSR sensors for simple push buttons and designed an interface that would accommodate more people and a variety of hand sizes. The buttons are laser-cut and laser-etched. The box is simply wood sprayed with many coats of black matte paint. I also swapped out the LCD display for a simpler serial display. It’s easier to use and brighter, but the refresh rate is much slower than the one I had in the glove.
Overall, the interaction suffers compared to the glove, but I was very pleased to see so many people use it. The highlight so far was taking it to 64 fifth graders at Nora Sterry Elementary school and observing their interaction with it—well worth the effort. A few more photos here.
I attended the first Los Angeles Unified School District Media Arts Salon this weekend. Dain Olsen organized the event and brought ~40 educators and professionals together to discuss the future of media arts as a new discipline in k-12 education. There were some obvious differences in opinion, but overall a lot of progress was made. I presented a short summary of my own opinions along with a few of my current projects. It seemed well received though I fear the binary glove may have come across as a bit too technical. Hopefully the meeting will lead to future collaborations with LAUSD and the other groups represented at the salon.
It was encouraging to meet so many engaged in preserving the arts as a discipline while at the same time acknowledging the shift in the mediums we use to express them. The way we communicate has changed drastically in the last 10 to 20 years. Education must evolve with it. Our kids are already out-pacing us outside of their school curriculums. Media arts shouldn’t replace existing disciplines but should be more central in the conversation of learning. At their core lies a unique power to engage minds, teach creative problem solving, and create meaning making—thus enhancing the learning process of any discipline.
“We are beginning to realize that the new media aren’t just mechanical gimmicks for creating worlds of illusion, but new languages with new and unique powers of expression.” –Marshall McLuhan, 1960
The binary glove teaches concepts of binary sequences and bits in a fun and engaging way. Each finger represents a bit value in a simple binary sequence: 1, 2, 4, 8, and 16. Pressure sensors in the ends of each finger register each bit as on or off. The sum of each active bit is displayed on the glove along with a visual representation of the current sequence. Five bits allow the wearer to create any number from 0 to 31 on one hand.
The glove has a learning mode for experimentation and play. Each number combination plays a different tone. Once the wearer is comfortable with the system, they can activate a game mode and test their skills. A random number from 0 to 31 is displayed and the user is timed to see how fast they can create the correct bit sequence.
Simple interactive exercises like these teach useful concepts that might otherwise appear too abstract for some students. Once the skill is learned and the pattern recognized, further learning poses fewer obstacles for the visual learner.
[update] The Binary Glove is a finalist in FILE PRIX LUX Sao Paulo.