Burlington, VT – Every year during the second week of September, the air on Pine Street is filled with the aroma of delicious foods and the excited chatter of local artists showing off their work at the South End Art Hop. Organized by the South End Arts & Business Association (SEABA), the Art Hop is recognized as the largest arts festival in Vermont, attracting over 30,000 people and exhibiting work from over 500 artists.
This year, underneath two tents behind ArtsRiot, the Emergent Media Center acquired quite a presence at the South End Art Hop. There stood the exhibited Icarus, Variance, pixelCloud, and Graffiniti, that succeeded in catching the attention of countless participants and bystanders alike.
We were delighted to see that Icarus caught the attention of WPTZ news reporter and anchor, Jared Hill, who interviewed the Emergent Media Center’s Ken Howell. The interview’s purpose was to gain a deeper understanding of Project Icarus and its functions and to find out how a virtual reality flight experience is created by combining an Oculus Rift with a custom built winged backpack peripheral. With the EMC team in the background, Ken explained how the position of the wings controlled the acceleration of the user in the virtual environment and direction was controlled via the movement of their body. Many people who stopped by the Emergent Media Center tents were unfamiliar with the Oculus Rift and found the technology to be new and exciting.
Project Variance is a 3-player cooperative game with the simple goal of getting a ball into a box within a virtual 3D environment. Each player controls a different axis of movement for the ball, the X-axis is controlled by a grip strengthener, the y-axis via a stationary bicycle, and the z-axis is humorously controlled by the pitch of a player’s voice through a microphone. It doesn’t take long to get used to and many groups who played were able to reach the goal multiple times in quick succession without too much struggle.
Graffiniti is an interactive art project developed by the Emergent Media Center’s sandbox team. Its goal is to show the possibilities in using technology in ways it isn’t originally marketed for, which is part of the reason why this piece is so fun and interactive. A Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect is adapted for this project to sense a user’s hands and interact with the digital canvas. The right hand directly controls the movement and size of the spray paint while the left hand is used to change color. The result; a masterpiece within a masterpiece and a hands on experience.
pixelCloud is a project built for events exactly like Art Hop. Made from coffee filters, straws, plastic joints, and LEDs connected to a computer, the pixelCloud analyzes tweets using #pixelCloud and lights up based on the mood it detects. It does this by using a program that analyzes the words of the tweets, assigns them a mood, and uses the average mood to light up accordingly. It’s reminiscent of a mood ring, but for event attendees and much larger. pixelCloud can also be set to a demo mode and show off the wide array of patterns and light effects it is capable of producing. Watching it light up in the evening is quite the sight.
The 2015 South End Art Hop was an incredibly successful event, for everyone involved. Children loved the interactivity of the EMC’s projects, so much so there was a near constant line to use each project. Parents arguably enjoyed the projects just as much as their children and so did many college students that made the trip to Pine Street.