+ AudioPrint

AudioPrint was borne out of Hiroshi Ishii’s Tangible Interfaces class. Although the primary focus of the class is on extending users interactions with digital information beyond the traditional GUI by giving physical form to digital information, the subject matter encompasses the study of how people interact with objects and their physical environment--the physical environment including architectural surfaces like walls, doors, and windows; physical objects, like books, musical instruments, and furniture; and finally what he terms ambient media, which includes light, sound, and motion. While enhancing graspable objects and augmenting surfaces exploits the human sense of touch and kinesthesia to convey information, ambient media displays lay in the background and “communicate digitally-mediated senses of presence and activity at the periphery of human awareness.”

AudioPrint is a sound installation experiment in physically manifesting information about the social make up of a space through sound. Simple and textural sound samples were generated using individual characteristics of an individual as they entered an enclosed space were mixed and layered on top of each other so that the ambient music was simultaneously a product of and instantiation of who was situated in the room. When the individual left, their “audioprint” lingered for a given amount of time and eventually faded, much like the conversation topics they introduced most likely did. The project was in ways a theoretical synthesizer for a music piece like Brian Eno’s ambient “Music for Airports.” It is intended to be in a physical place of cultural significance by way of the variety of individuals and social interactions that take place there, some of which are rare and some of which occur as daily rhythm.

Unlike an encoded music cd that you can take with you to a train station, a hospital waiting room or your office and listen to it in the morning or at night, AudioPrint was experienced in and reflective of a single place at a single point in time. I found myself wanting to sample the music from a half hour ago when a room had just been completely vacated, because the knowledge of who had been there or what had happened in it when I wasn’t there contributes equally, if not more, to my awareness of the space.

Screen shots of the processing done on the images grabbed from a cheapo webcam. The final image was then used to extract the individual variables for sound synthesis.