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my first foray into an alternative interface for an interactive screen
project date: 

just nine of the thousands of possible reconfigurations of my face that can be achieved on screen by prodding around in the skullIn my work as an artist I have been fascinated by the process of play, explorative learning, and aesthetic yet functional interfaces. Make(ing)Faces was the first piece that I developed an alternate interface object for. The project was composed of a projected video image of my face, and controlled through a plastic skull replica. The skull was accompanied by two electrodes which easily fit into numerous holes which had been drilled into the cranium of the skull. My goal was for the audience to be intrigued by the interface object and to be driven by curiosity into experimentally prodding the holes in the skull. Through exploring in this manner, the audience inadvertently controls the video projection of my face and causes sections of it to display different emotional traits or muscular contortions—depending upon which probe was placed in which hole.

some pictures of the skull interface object for Make(ing)Faces

the skull

A major interest of mine in creating an alternate interface object was the transition away from the standard computer interface of keyboard and mouse. This standard interface has become fully established in society. There is no longer any need for exploration because the user already knows what to do with it and how to make it work. The potential for play in the digital side of the piece is reduced because the physical interface is too well-known.

In the skull interface of Make(ing)Faces, however, there is just enough familiarity for the user to feel comfortable in exploring how it functions as the control mechanism, and in exploring the control mechanism, the elements of play and experimentation are enhanced in the piece as a whole. The user simultaneously explores both physical and digital—learning a new interface and playing with the effects that it has on-screen.

front view of the skull interface device with electrodes and trailing wires my hands holding the interface electrodes for scale rear-side view of the skull interface device with trailing wires

how it works

The skull and electrodes control a video database grid on the computer. The wires from the skull and electrodes all plug into a hacked keyboard circuit, which connects to the computer as a normal keyboard would. Putting an electrode in one of the skull’s interface holes functions as a key press as far as the computer is concerned. A Macromedia Director program running on the computer then watches for specific key presses and takes the appropriate actions—changing the face according to which electrode was put into which hole.

showings & accomplishments

  • Along with Suitcase Manifesto, Make(ing)Faces won me the 2003 Junior Show Award at Alfred University.
  • Shown in Shanghai, China at the 2003 Science and Art International Digital Art Exhibition—where it was extremely well received. (much thanks to Joo-Mee Paik who installed the piece for me in Shanghai.)
  • Make(ing)Faces was also covered by a Chinese product design magazine (currently looking for more details on this.)

two boys playing with the skull interface devide at the show in Shanghai another group in Shanghai--probing the skull to see what happens the skull interface with electrode probes--in Shanghai