The SONIC CAROUSEL saw its debut at the 2006 Contact Conference at NASA Ames in Mountain View, CA.  Participants were able to entice the rotating "creatures" of the carousel into performing their musical parts and associated dance.

At Contact Conference 2008, the software for the exhibit was upgraded to the new GEMSTONE DANCE, where gemstones travelling around the screen can be activated by participants into performing their musical parts, along with several new visual effects and new musical pieces that were added into the exhibit's repertoire.

"Gemstone Dance" exhibit in the art gallery at Contact 2008
Click the Play button below to see it in operation.

"Gemstone Dance" utilizes infrared sensing to detect activity near the projection screen.

View behind the screen, including projector stand and computer housing.

View including all 4 infrared light sources.

The "Gemstone Dance" exhibit was run a PC and a music sequencing unit, all contained within the computer housing for ease of transport and set-up.   The PC displays the video image and processes the video from the infrared sensitive camera, also sends MIDI signals out to control the music sequencing unit.

Without interaction, the piece idles with a simple portion of the currently active musical piece, at decreased volume.   Once someone comes near the piece and holds their hand up near a "gemstone" object, the volume increases slightly and the musical part associated with the gem will sound and the gem will animate.   The four "gemstones" each control a different part of the music, so participants can listen to individual components of the piece, the entire ensemble in concert, or in any combination of individual parts. After a couple of minutes, the gemstones will transition off the screen temporarily and a new musical piece is selected, it's associated title appearing on the screen briefly.   Then the gemstones return and are ready to be "enticed" into playing their new parts.   The background image also reacts to interaction, displaying portions of a complex image that can be explored by further interaction with it.   Without interaction, a gemstone's musical part fades out within a couple of seconds. When there is no participant activity, after a minute or so the piece will return to a quiescent state and the volume of the reduced portion of the music fades down to the "idle" level.

Detail of projection/sensing unit.   The projector bounces it's image off a "cold mirror" and to the screen, eliminating infrared sources from the projection image.   An infrared sensitive video security camera behind the mirror picks up the infrared reflections from anything just on the other side of the screen (within an ajustable sensitivity range, set for about 6 inches).   A black card is used to block light from the side from entering the camera via the back of the mirror.

Future Directions/Issues:

"Gemstone Dance" worked quite well and was well recieved by the conference participants.

The original design of the exhibit was to be as a floor projection that people could walk or dance on. Due to the ceiling height in the venue however (about 11 ft.), it was determined that there wasn't enough clearance to accomplish a sizeable enough projection and sensing area, so a standard rear-screen kiosk was configured. Since the components can still be reconfigured for floor projection, given the right venue it might be exhibited in that form at some point. Given the increased requirement for user activity in such a configuration however, the rear-screen kiosk may actually be more inviting-- participatnts are more likely to feel they are making a fool of themselves by dancing around on floor images, than they would just holding their hands up in front of a screen. On the other hand, for an exhibit particularly targeted to kids a floor projection could be the better option.