Binary Face Off

Binary Face Off

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.

Binary Face Off 2


The unique beauty of the travertine exterior of the Getty Center is the result of complex geologic processes. Its intricate structure is derived from the rapid precipitation of calcium-carbonate from geothermally-heated hot springs. Calcification reveals the nanostructure of the walls of the Getty. An animated rendering of calcium-carbonate suggests a landscape as substantial as the quarries from which the travertine was cut. The animation was projected on the exterior stone walls of the museum as part of Jennifer Steinkamp‘s [re]vision project at the Getty Center in May 2011.

eARTS Shanghai


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.

Flickr sets: eArts Workshop  |  Shanghai / Hangzhou

Binary Pad

Binary Pad

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.


SASIC 9: Tracing Chaos

A few grads from the department have been invited to present work at SASIC 9 in La Jolla this weekend at the Scripps Oceanic Institute. The 9th annual Surfing, Art, Science, and Issues Conference examines the relationship of science and art through one of its most cogent and unexpected points of contact: surfing. Originally started by Glenn Hening, co-founder of the Surfrider Foundation, this year’s conference was organized by The Modeling Agency.

One of our professors, Peter Lunenfeld, will present “Gidget on the Couch: Freud, Dora (No, Not that Dora), and Surfing’s Secret Austro-Hungarian Roots”David Wicks will show some sweet new work where he floats an iPhone and an HD camera behind his surfboard; Mark Essen will show off his crazy new game for Adult Swim: PIPEDREAMZ; And I’m going to talk about sand crabs, reef squid, and a game I’m building where you use hypodermic harpoon dolphins, remora bombs, and suicidal dogfish to defend the west coast from nuke-toating elephant seals, leatherback sea turtles, and juvenile white sharks.

The highlight of the weekend is a morning surf session where we get to test ride experimental wave craft. I’m excited about this one.

[update] The conference was amazing, and even more important, I had my first real ride on a long board—not just pushed by whitewater, but actually carving across the face of a large, beautiful wave. Life-changing.



The second year DMA grads had their Fall Opening in the New Wight Gallery at UCLA this month. It’s gave a glimpse of what each of us is currently working on, and also gave us a healthy dose of this-is-what-you-need-to-go-through-to-put-on-a-big-show. It took some work, but thanks to helpful staff and a little luck the show came together nicely. We had a full opening and a long, but useful critique from the faculty the next day.

I ended up showing the Binary Glove since it was never formally shown in the program last year. A few days before the show I decided it was uncool to show only documentation—the best part is interacting with it. Unfortunately, it’s a prototype and not easy to put on or take off without breaking sensors. Next time I’ll build it better.

Instead, I went ahead and built a button interface with the same functionality as the glove. It’s a simple box with laser-cut plexi buttons. It actually uses the guts of the glove, but I swapped the FSRs for simple buttons and dropped a brighter LCD display in as well. It was fun to watch people interact with it. I learned a lot and will make changes the next time I show it. I’m hoping to take it to a local elementary school to see what the kids do with it.

Great work from my colleagues in the program. I’m really fortunate to share space with such talent. A few photos of the show at Flickr: I AM HERE NOW

Squid Wall

Another piece from leaving here, being there.

Squid Wall explores the effects of human interaction on natural patterns and processes. A projected particle system reacts to motion detected in front of the wall. When all is still, the particles move freely—flocking and interacting with an underlying mathematical structure. If motion is detected, the particles form a rigid defensive stance, returning to their natural motion only when all is still again.

Many in the gallery missed the flocking patterns completely, but I don’t mind. We miss much in the world around us simply because we’re there.

Based on the behavior of reef squid and other cool creatures. Boid and flocking by Dan Shiffman. Underlying structure from a flash construction by Jared Tarbell, originally inspired from work by Martin Wattenberg.


This is a series of photos from leaving here, being there.

I got a lucky last-minute invite to backpack with my nephew and his scout troop into Havasupai on the southern end of the Grand Canyon last month. The trip was amazing, and I experienced nature that left me speechless. Unfortunately, I shared the experience with 170 other scouts and tourists (the campground holds 300)—many of whom were packed in by mule, horse and helicopter. Even the most careful left a mark. Hava__pai takes “us” out of the picture and replaces that mark with the natural landscape. The top set was hung in the gallery. The bottom set hung less-prominently on the backside of a wall outside the gallery, not far from the trash cans.

See more photos of my trip on Flickr.

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