Microsoft approached us to develop a Kinect based installation for Digital Shoreditch festival. The East London festival is growing every year as more individuals and studios based in Silicon Roundabout’s neighbourhood jump on board to showcase their skills.
We teamed up with Felix’s Machines to create an interactive installation that transformed the audience into the performer. Felix’s Machines can best be described as musical instruments made from deconstructed objects such as motors, pianos and alarm clocks. Each machine creates a unique set of sounds and has its own geometrically inspired aesthetics. Felix Thorn the creator behind Felix’s Machines has toured the world performing with his machines.
The collaboration saw the machines become audience interactive for the first time. Before Digital Shoreditch the machines were used to perform pre-coded pieces of music played live from a Macbook. We wanted to keep an element of tuneful composition when the audience interacted with the machines so our first job was to create a loop mixer for each instrument in vvvv. The loop mixer was designed so that all the instruments played notes on the same beat, meaning that if a person interacting with the machines played one instrument after the other the music sounded in time.
We used Microsoft’s Kinect to detect which machine a person was pointing at. On the face of it this sounds quite simple. Behind the scenes we had to calculate where in the room the person was standing, then map the angle between their elbow and hand to create a line in a 3D scene. The machines were then mapped in to the 3D scene and the line from the person’s hand and elbow used to calculate which machine was being pointed at.
The effect was magical. People felt as if they had superhuman powers able to control the machines from across the room. Everyone who stepped up to have a go quickly understood how to use the machines, as audience members spent more time practising with the machines they became more musical and impressive.
The event finished with a spectacular one-off performance from Felix himself.