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Workshop on Interactive sound and space, Copenhagen 2008

This workshop was a collaboration between Diffus Design, Visual Culture and Musicology – University of Copenhagen, Danish Design School, Medialogy – Aalborg University and Högskolan Kristianstad. The goal of the workshop was to create a fruitful collaboration across disciplines and facilitating a unique collaboration between students across the region of Øresund (DK + SE). The students learned about collaborating and managing development processes from idea and concept to finished, tangible installations and product prototypes. The students had the opportunity to work with real world case material.

In the centre of attention was interaction design that included space, sound and textiles and the focus on these elements gave way to some very interesting results.

Blob until you drop… Responsive architecture

One of the student projects that came out as a result of the workshop was the installation Blob. A 4×3 meter room furnished with a couch is the stringent setting for this installation. A guest enters the room and sits down, not aware of the room as an installation but involuntary, the guest will interacts with the surroundings. Sensors in the couch register when the person rests for more than 2 minutes, then, the ceiling will start to react. Eventually the now relaxed guest will notice a discreet protuberance that start to build up in the middle of the white ceiling. After a while, the blob- like distortion accentuates dramatically, and the ceiling reveals its respondence to the presence of people inside the room. When the guest(s) eventually stands up and leaves the couch, the blob decrease the volume slowly and regains its original shape. This installation uses a stretcht latex surface to simulate the continuum of a white, flat and regular ceiling.

To achieve the metamorphose of the ceiling, a water pump is placed on top of the ceiling and pours water little by little on the latex membrane that gives in to the weight of the water. Slowly the latex stretches downwards, like a stalactic dripping down from the ceiling and over the visitors head! When someone leaves the couch, a second pump removes the water slowly.

The morphology of the space seems to adapt in real time to situations and activities. It reacts softly and gently, as a kind of organism in interrelation with its content. The installation is not supposed to look like a recognizable art installation but more like a part of a museum building. It should resemble a room where you rest for a while before taking a look at the rest of the exhibition.

Technical issues

Water: The dripping blob should require the smallest amount of water possible. It should be strong and able to hold the weight of the water. It is also important that the latex gets back to its original shape.

Latex ceiling: A latex membrane of 0.6 mm was chosen. 40 liters of water created the drop form and it flattened afterwards again when water is expelled. The pumps: The roof needs to carry 2 buckets in which a pump sucks the water from bucket A to bucket B. The latex is attached to bucket B, which has a hole on the bottom. As the 60 liters of water fills bucket B the latex blob slowly starts to appear as a drop hanging from the ceiling. The pumps gets activated by sensors noticing a person sitting in the sofa. When a person gets up, another pump reacts by sucking the water from bucket B back to bucket A and the blob disappear. The blob should be emptied faster (2 minutes) than it ́s being filled (3-4 minutes). It gives the blob the movement of a living creature instead of a mechanical device.

Sensors: The sofa sensor is basically a push button made out of 2 sheets of aluminium foil separated by foam with holes in it. When someone sits down, the foam presses together, the aluminium layers that then touches each other. A contact is made between the 2 foil sheets. The sensor is connected to the microprocessor (Arduino) which sends data to a program (Processing) used for our timing system. At the appropriate time, data is send back to the microprocessor and used to switch on and off the relays which are connected to the pumps.

Water level sensor (see above): A potentiometer is attached to the side of the water container. A rod is attached to the potentiometer, styrene is attached to the rod. The styrene is placed on the water. When the waterlevel moves, the styrene piece follows and the rod turns the potentiometer. It is connected to the Arduino processor used to send data to Processing. By that means, we can read the water level and the size of the blob. Also, this data is used to control the generating of the Soundscape. Potentiometer –>Arduino –> Processing (max/msp)–>Arduino –> Controls the pumps

The soundscape: The idea of the soundscape is to use the actual sound of the blob. A microphone attached to the inside of the blob captures the sound and processes the sound in real time. The sound is then played within the room. Depending of the size of the blob, the soundscape evolves and creates a certain mood, reflecting in dramatic ways the morphing of the blob.Two basic sounds are at play: The water dripping when it grows and the water-sucking when it decreases again.

Design and concept: Hanne-Louise Johannesen and Michel Guglielmi (Diffus Design)
Students participating in the Blob project: Aron Fleming, Interactive sound design, Kristiansstads Högskola, Sweeden. Erinc Malkondu, Msc. Medialogy, Ålborg university, DK. Edda Jónsdóttir, Production design, Danmarks Designskolen, DK. Julia Heuer, textile design, ABK Stutgart, exchange student at DKDS, DK.