The Emotional Space | #5 | Outlines

I already painted a metaphorical picture of how I imagine my currently merely conceptual installation from a visitors perspective in The Emotional Space | #4. This time, before diving into technical details, I will provide a more straight forward view of what I want The Emotional Space to look like and the necessities to make it work.

The Space

Essentially, I want to create an audio-visual installation, which requires its own room. As an entrance, I would rather have a thick curtain instead of a door, because a door, in my opinion, seems a lot less inviting to visitors, especially if sound can be heard on the other side of it. Entering the room should only be possible after putting on a wristband, which is handed out right in front of the room.

While I do have some ideas on how I would like the inside of the room to look like, I want to be able to fully focus on the sound part of this project, making this a great opportunity for a cooperation. I mainly want to avoid that the stimuli in the room become too overwhelming, which is why I currently imagine a kind of light installation that stays a little in the back and gives the sound more space. Furthermore, I want to provide some objects to sit on inside the room, to create a dynamic space that can be experienced in various moods and positions.

The Interaction

First and foremost, I would like to gather motion data from visitors, in real-time, making it possible for the soundscape to react with low latency to their movements. This means that each wristband needs at least a gyroscope, an accelerometer and a wireless transmitter. I first thought of creating an app that each visitor has to install and run on their smartphone before entering, but besides not wanting to exclude people without a smartphone from visiting and fully experiencing the installation, I also assume that this would lead to many difficulties like incompatibilities and latency differences from phone model to phone model. It might also impact the experience negatively for visitors and discourage some people from entering the installation.

For the visitors’ experience, wristbands (or any other pre-configured wireless devices) would clearly be the preferred solution. However, to not neglect the feasibility of the concept, I also have to take the cost factor into account, which is a lot higher for any additionally needed devices. There are companies that manufacture and sell wristbands with the exact functionality that I need, but cost-wise I might rather opt for a DYI-solution involving separately bought sensors and a microcontroller (as for example the Raspberry Pi Zero). I will go into more detail about my wristband research in separate blog entry. It would additionally be very interesting to use any kind of spatial data to be able to react to where in the room visitors are at each moment, but this will just be implemented if the time and finances allow it.

The Sound

I currently imagine the physical part of the sound installation to consist of at least four speakers placed in different corners. This is not necessarily for the reason that I want to create the soundscape on more than two channels – even though a surround or ambisonics soundscape would fit quite well into this concept. My intention for surround sound rather came from the thought of a dynamic room without an obvious front or back side. But the evaluation if it makes sense to have more than two speakers in a room without using more than two channels is also a topic for a different dedicated blog post, together with an evaluation of the needed additional effort to create a multi-channel soundscape.

The soundscape itself should consist of a base layer that is always present and creates a calm ambience when no or just one visitor is present. There will be an additional layer for every visitor, adding new instruments and sounds. Each of the layers is dynamic and will change in some way with the amount of visitors and sensor data. Additionally, effects will be applied to layers, based on visitor numbers or certain patterns in sensor activity.

Since I want to create a generative soundscape, I would like to introduce various other external variables that influence the soundscape, such as the time of day, variables from the internet, or variables from additional sensors. This would cause the soundscape to never be the same. Nevertheless, I want to be able to create new scenes, with a new set of sounds, instruments and even variables rather quickly without too much coding effort. The project will most likely be primarily coded in Pure Data, interfacing the sensor data and a collection of sound samples and instruments. Sound synthesis within Pure Data will also be used.

This concludes my rough outline of my vision and necessities. The next posts will treat my artistic vision and research about similar projects, a first version of a project plan, and details of the separate components within my concept.

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