suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
Behnaz FARAHI: How might we imagine a space that can develop an understanding of its users through their sounds and movements and respond accordingly? “The Living, Breathing Wall” seeks to address this question; one of the main contributions of this work is to explore how a physical environment can change its shape in response to the speech recognition of users.
The installation consists of “physical movable parts” including 60 Shape Memory Alloy Springs, 120 aluminum stands and a wooden backboard, augmented with a “brain” consisting Arduino microcontroller. A user interface implemented in this project was speech recognition system (software) with Kinect (hardware), which recognizes sentences and words as inputs and generates dynamic patterns as outputs.
In this case the installation was programmed to respond to various key words in order to express specific feelings of happiness, sadness, excitement and so on. A Kinect device was used to recognize the words. It then relayed instructions via an Arduino to shape memory alloy activated aluminum eyelid-like components that moved in relation to a fabric surface to create various bumps or indentations on the surface. Since each bump on the surface of the wall could act as a pixel on an addressable grid, potentially the wall could also be controlled to display images on its surface, providing non-obtrusive, ambient information that is relevant to users. Potentially, then, if the resolution of the “pixels” were increased sufficiently, the wall could be used to transfer information.
In “Living, Breathing Wall,” an attempt is made to explore how simple elements in our surrounding environment can change their physical configuration as we interact with them like any soft adaptive system in nature. The central focus of this project is the relationship between materials, form, and interactive systems of control.
Additional credits and links:
“The Living, Breathing Wall” was initially designed for the “sound+ sight+ space” exhibitions at School of Cinematic Art at USC (Nov. 2013) and re-exhibited for a group exhibition at ‘BLINDSPOT INITIATIVE’ at the Keystone Gallery Space. (Feb. 2014)
Special thanks to sponsors Mobile and Environmental Media Lab (MEML) at USC, Steelcase and Musclewire Inc.