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2nd June 2014, 11:24am
Digital art explores what makes us human
The Eye Resonator Computer scientists and digital artists have combined their skills to create an interactive piece of art that reacts to users’ personalities.

Dr John Shearer, from the School of Computer Science, University of Lincoln, UK, and digital artists at Newcastle University are using technology to help focus the mind and make sense of the chaos around us.

Although an impressive artwork in its own right, the Eye Resonator also gives away subtle clues about our personalities without us even noticing.

Created by Dr Shearer and Dr Brigitta Zics, this interactive ecosystem is boring for some and thrilling for others, reacting to an individual’s gaze by changing visuals, temperature, sound and lighting accordingly.

To begin with, a large copper dome is placed over the person’s head, which calibrates the system for an individual's eyes. They are then presented with a series of swarming images on the screen in front of them, which they control simply by their eye movement.

The copperplate work of the ‘cupola’ or dome, which is the centrepiece of the artwork, contains within it complex technology which has taken years to perfect.

By detecting subtle behavioural changes, Eye Resonator stimulates a process of self-observation by guiding the visitor through a sequence of experiences and feedback loops.

During the experience, which lasts from about two to ten minutes, pupil dilation and behavioural shifts are tracked as people try to control increasingly complex swarms on the screen in front of them – from a flock of birds through to insects or fish and onto plankton. 

They can pass onto the next level once they have managed to control that particular swarm until they reach an optimum state where they are completely immersed in the visuals in front of them.

Dr Shearer, whose work focusses on understanding how people interact with computer technology, said: “I approach human-computer interaction from a slightly different perspective – that of how people interact with the finished product, not how it is created. For me, the Eye Resonator is very much about the meditative experience and the technology is simply a tool for creating this.

“This piece uses an eye-tracker, which as well as giving the location of where you are looking and the speed at which your eyes move, also picks up pupil dilation. It can assess how excited someone is which is one of a variety of measures that dictates their experience.”

Dr Zics added: “We’re inviting people to step back and reflect in a way that we rarely do – much the same way as meditation does. It’s a chance to step out of life for a few minutes and just be with yourself. Technology is always moving towards a better user experience, so why not art galleries too? Art needs to be more responsive to people who are engaging with it and this work is really pushing that, looking to understand better what makes us human.”

People can experience Eye Resonator for themselves at Newcastle University’s Culture Lab between 3-5 June 2014. For more information visit the Eye Resonator website.

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