Art installation project draws from technology interface

The art and technology communities will both have something to be proud of when InterAccess releases the AID (Art Interface Device) later this year.

The AID system is a microprocessor framework for electronic art installations currently being developed under a General Public Licence in conjunction

with the InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre in Toronto.

AID, which has been in development since 1999, is a descendant of the SenseBus project, a system that used nine microprocessors together to allow art installations to sense the presence of a person in the installation. The installation itself would then respond to the change in environment (turn a light on, play a sound, etc.).

Mike Steventon, coordinator of the AID project, said the team working on SenseBus eventually found limitations with its basic structure and decided to build their own microprocessor platform. Enter AID.

AID, which will accommodate different skill levels and input/output technologies, will enable the same stimulation-response cycle as SenseBus did, but with an added dimension: it will be an open source project built around the needs of real life artists.

“”The idea is to have a Web portal that has as one of its main features a library of what we call work solutions to common electronic sensing needs of artists,”” says Steventon. “”People would go to the site knowing that it has a lot of information about how to make these kinds of things work. They would download a little package that’s basically like a recipe — it tells you what ingredients you need, how to put it together, and how to make it in your artwork. And it’s our belief that people who use that would also contribute solutions that they’d figured out that weren’t already in the library.””

The nitty-gritty of the project, the actual implementation of the technology, is being worked on primarily by the Toronto-based team for the time being.

“”Most of the development is going on locally at this stage. We hope that once we have the main board and some peripheral devices that we’ll start to develop things abroad and have nodes assisting us to develop in other parts of the world,”” says Steventon.

Steventon believes a project like this will naturally draw the attention of international artists, benefiting both the project and the global art community.

So far, the technology has only been tested publicly once, on an installation by Australian artist Stelarc who works regularly with robotics — in this case a prosthetic head.

Ben Bogart, an artist who worked on the Stelarc project, thinks the AID project will be successful among artists because it allows them to take advantage of its technology in a “”non-commercial, open-source atmosphere.”” Bogart sees AID users as “”investors in their own technology,”” each with “”power to steer the technology to where they want it to go.””

Steventon has found the art community tremendously receptive to the nascent project.

“”There’s been a lot of support for it. The only real problem we’re having is dealing with questions of when it’s going to be ready. There’s a kind of pent-up demand from several art centres that would like to have workshops and begin using the AID.””

Steventon says the AID project should be ready by the end of September.


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