Computer Vision for Artists

I feel like this is the breaking point for me. Computer vision is so cool and I want to use it in absolutely everything I do and that’s a horrible mindset. It’s one of those things that should only be used if it’s absolutely essential to the project. If it can be done in another way, do it in another way. But if it’s what makes the project unique or adds a key element, then do it. As I continue working with IM, it’ll be hard not to suppress the urge to incorporate computer vision into everything.

This reading was very technical, but I think it was a good basis for understanding how it works, what the right conditions are for it to work, and other things that we will need to know for going into the very beginnings of computer vision. For example, setting up the physical environment, especially in this sort of festival/installation vibe we have going for the final show. Making sure that the space is high contrast/low noise and is able to communicate properly with the computer will be an essential part of the process.

However, I really want to talk about an experience I had a little less than a year ago at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal. They had recently installed Zoom Pavillion, an interactive art piece by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Krzysztof Krzysztof Wodiczko. In this, all of the walls as well as the ceiling were covered in video footage…of yourself. You would walk into this room and cameras would pick up on your face, gestures, gait, a group that you walked in on. Then, the cameras would start pairing you with people to mark your relationship with them. It was absolutely incredible. I walked in with a group of 18 year olds, all of us extremely good friends, so the cameras drew a large square around the entire group. However, as we started exploring the space, it kept us in communication with each other. It noticed that I kept looking at my good friend Adam, so it would draw a line between us and write “friendly”. I would move far away from my other friend and it would write “hostile”.

This was all fun and games, however, until another group of teenagers walked in. At that point, my friend group had gathered in the corner of the room and were making funny faces into the camera. The other teenagers walked in and almost immediately, we had two boxes, each around the groups and a line between us that read, “Potential Friendly”. How had this machine told us that a bunch of people we could easily connect with had entered the room just by observing a few seconds of their movement and interaction with the space? I will never forget this. It was absolutely incredible.

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