Ideas behind the Eye Thing

This project owes a lot to the work of Gerald Sussman's Amorphous Computing Group at MIT's Media Lab. I was reading about their work at the time I was working on this, and started developing a few simple interactive projects in Director to illustrate some of the principles and algorithms they mention.

Propagate wave - Each mouse click sends a wave of messages

Propagate wave (rollover version) - waves happen on rollovers; visually a little more complex

Region Compare - A "peer pressure" algorithm for normalizing regions of color


The idea of a body-scale computing environment, with multiple independent processors all sensing the physical environment independently and communicating to each other to make a coherent whole, seemed like a natural application of the amorphous computing idea to me.

The way the elements of the systems above appear to swarm appealed to me; lacks the instantaneous nature of a single processor system, and is more interesting to watch. I wanted to emulate that in the final installation. Although it tends to give a more 'lifelike' motion to the system that I'm not fond of (they're machines!), it also gives the sense of multiple independent units and creates a buzz of activity. We tend to overlook the amount of activity going on around us in the digital world because we don't have a lot of moving parts. We also tend to avoid wasting processing time on pixel motion unless it's necessary. So there can be a great deal going on in a system and we might never be aware of it. While there are many times this is appropriate, there are other times when a layer of background motion can make a system seem more interesting.

Given that this project uses only one sensor (camera) and one processor controlling many objects, it's not technically an application of these ideas, but an illustration of them. Each eye represents a processor, and senses the environment in its own way. Communicating this to its neighbor, a pattern begins to emerge as each processot acts on its local information. I'd like to build a follow-up project that actually uses some of these principles, including multiple processors. I have an idea with mice, inspired by Camille Utterback, that hopefully I'll get around to one of these days.


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