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Eyeo 2013 pt II – Genius edition

June 11, 2013

The brilliant speakers at Eyeo Festival 2013 closing

This second post on my Eyeo impressions is likely to be even more scattered and fragmentary than the first, but here it is.

Amit Pitaru detoured from his planned (and already great) talk to discuss the difficulty, real and perceived, of learning to code in these days of creative coding platforms like OpenFrameworks and Processing. The gist of his point was that the difficulty always kicks in somewhere. In the olden days coding was very tough to pick up at all and as your skills developed that difficulty plateaued. Now, it’s much easier to pick up and start coding but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of hard lessons to learn on the way to becoming an expert coder, it simply means that those lessons happen later.

 

The integrity and respect for the Eyeo audience that this unplanned detour required was appreciated. The easiest thing would have been to stick to script, but Amit obviously knew that he was speaking with peers who would support the ad-libbing and that this gave the best value to the audience.

Memo Akten’s playful, beautiful and technically brilliant work has long made him a hero of mine. He talked about the challenges of selling clients on the next thing you want to do, not the last thing you did (comforting to know that even geniuses suffer from that curse). He spoke about the need and value of maintaining an open and curious mindset that comes so naturally to kids. A major theme of Memo’s talk was the elegance and beauty that can come from surprisingly (deceptively) simple tweaks to numerical systems, using a fascinating series of pendulum inspired works he had created as examples.

Ivan Poupyrev has been working on some incredible stuff at Disney’s research labs. I had seen snippets of the Touché tech that allows virtually any object to become a computer interface, say an orchid plant or a tank of water.
Ivan spoke with infectious enthusiasm and excitement for the possibilities of adding interfaces to existing objects and infrastructure instead of constantly cycling through short lived gadgets. Not a bad goal and honestly loftier than I expected from a Disney researcher.

Daito Manabe is a Japanese artists and mad scientist who gave an entertaining tour through his experiments trying to detect and copy a facial expression from one person’s face to another. This sci-fi sounding work involved using DIY myoelectric sensors to detect the signals given off by muscles to detect expressions. That data was then fed into the face of another human using electrical muscle stimulation. The incredible results of these experiments can be seen in loads of online documentation, like this video. You can even download instructions on doing this yourself (at your own risk)

After working on this crazy stuff as a labour of love Daito landed several gigs to do extend the work commercially, including a pop video and a series of ads selling chewing gum.

Daito also talked about some of his other work including systems for controlling LED encrusted dresses for the Japanese pop group Perfume. Daito also quickly touched on an intriguing series of works at YCAM, blending dancers with industrial robots and laser beams.

Sha Hwang gave the closing keynote of the 2013 festival. He was a super-entertaining and inspiring and hit just the right notes for closing out such a wonderful festival. I can’t do any of the detail justice, but the gist as I heard it was this: we (the participants at Eyeo and our ilk) have tremendous opportunities and tremendous responsibilities to do interesting, valuable, new work. Now go do it.

Sha said it really. I’m excited and more than a little scared to get to work integrating all the inspiration and insight from this fantastically great festival into my own practice.