Interactive art exhibit mimics virtual experience of social networks; uses UW technology to steer sound beams

SanctumEarlier this month, a new interactive art installation called Sanctum was unveiled on the outer facade of the Henry Art Gallery. For visitors, Sanctum cleverly mimics the virtual experience of a social network.

The installation uses one of the UW’s patented technologies, Moving Ultra-Sound Technology (MUST), invented by Juan Pampin, associate professor and director of the Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS) at UW, and Michael McCrea, research scientist in DXARTS. The technology allows multiple “beams” of focused audible sound to be directed to changing locations so that, for example, two people standing in front of the same exhibit may hear different audio tracks that follow them as they move within the space.

The Sanctum project was conceived by Pampin, who is also a composer and sound artist, together with James Coupe, an artist whose recent works use surveillance systems, through physical camera networks, via virtual data acquired from social media sites, or combinations of both.

More About Sanctum
Sanctum is a public art work that uses the persistent flow of people around the Henry Art Gallery as input, extracting narratives from the demographics of passers-by and the patterns of their movement. The flow of people is used as a physical analogue to another type of crowd, the virtual inhabitants of social networks such as Facebook.

As a person approaches the gallery, they are tracked, analyzed and recorded by video cameras programmed to identify people according to their age and gender. They hear a cacophony of voices, all telling stories. As they get closer to the gallery, the voices become clearer, gradually becoming a single voice that matches their age and gender, and telling a story composed from demographically-appropriate Facebook status updates. A grid of 18 large video monitors on the façade of the gallery picks their face out of the crowd, automatically integrating footage of them with a variety of live and pre-recorded footage from around the gallery façade.

The installation aims to create a locus of complex and intense social networking activity, reaching out of the gallery to embed the passer by. As unexpected flâneurs, people passing by the Henry are assaulted by a multitude of voices, videos and text, of which, as they approach the façade, they will eventually become the focal point.

You can join the Sanctum Facebook application here. By joining, your Facebook status updates will become content for Sanctum’s narrative system. All posts that you make to Facebook will remain anonymous – they will be tagged with age and gender, but no other personal data will be used. If you visit Sanctum at the Henry Art Gallery, you can potentially see your status updates used as parts of the stories that are generated.