This week, I’ve chosen to write about an interactive art piece created as a collaboration between Janet Echelman and Aaron Koblin called Unnumbered Sparks. Created as an installation for TED’s 30th anniversary, it allows the audience to interact with an enormous suspended fiber sculpture in real-time by painting on its surface with light using a chrome web app. It’s a networked experience that allows multiple users to interact at once, seeing their  brushstrokes interact with other audience members.

I’m personally a huge fan of public art, and I particularly enjoy the dynamic and ethereal nature of Echelman’s fiber work. All of her non-interactive pieces are beautiful, but I think this collaboration adds a new exciting layer to the project. Giving people a sense of power as their tiny touch-screen gestures are translated into enormous strokes of light is exciting and unusual and allows for kinds of collaborative dance and interaction to occur between strangers as they play and mingle with each other’s patterns.

That being said, I think the interaction method was perhaps a bit too simple, and afforded button-mashy swiping a bit too easily which makes the way people interact with it often chaotic and unrefined. Perhaps introducing more subtle interactions, or somehow throttling the effect would have created a more elegant output in the hands of the audience.

The project should also be applauded for its huge logistical complexity, with projection mapping and mounting of the sculpture alone being an amazing feat, not to mention the interaction all through the chrome browser.

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