Magnetic Potential

Made by Tyler Stern and Christoph Eckrich

An interactive projection that connects two partners across space and time.

Created: September 23rd, 2018

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Magnetic Potential
Student Parking - https://vimeo.com/291556477
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Magnetic Potential is an interactive installation that projects a mural of flowing contour lines that evolve and transform based on the activity of a motion sensing bracelet. The project was made for Sam and Dale Griffin, a couple living in Palo Alto, CA, and closes the physical distance between the pair when one is out on business. Their tradition of sitting in the garden together at night is kept alive by signaling the presence and motion of the other through a serene display of light and color.

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How it works:

The installation uses TouchDesigner to generate and projection-map an animation consisting of vector fields generated out of a 3d noise cloud. Two colors, one noisier, one more pure, are overlayed to created depth and gradient. The colors slowly morph and change from a preselected palette. We incorporated and adapted code offered publicly from Derivative (http://www.derivative.ca/wiki088/index.php?title=Generative_Design). 


These lines gracefully flow in a default state, moving slowly through the samples point cloud. The animation reacts and changes by altering the seed of the cloud - changing the location of the point charges - upon signal from the bracelet component.

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When one of the two partners is away, they wear the bracelet to keep the other in mind. If the wearer is walking, running, or moving in any way, the sensor recognizes the change in orientation and sends a signal to the installation controller back at the garden. Subsequently, the projection responds to new signal, and transitions. The flow lines scramble, and reconvene to the new seed. The rhythm and speed of the movement is perceived on the other end of the world, while the particulars remain obscured.

As the tilt sensor is repeatedly triggered while the user is active, the "seed" of the randomly generated contour lines is changed. This manipulates the origin of the lines, seen as the "poles" in the projection. These shapes from which the contour lines emanate now shift and move around the projection, creating a more active and fluid mural. 

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Even though one partner might be away, the morphing field can evoke a sense of connectedness to the other. Despite potentially being hundreds or even thousands of miles away, motion in an otherwise still garden can convey the presence of a distanced partner.

Even if we cannot see them, magnetic field lines exist, just like the powerful connection between two people.

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48-734 Reactive Spaces and Media Architecture

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How can embedded computation change the way we experience our surroundings? This class will focus on the design and prototyping of reactive spaces. Over the course of several small projects and one...more


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An interactive projection that connects two partners across space and time.