BY ROGER SPERBERG
This is the second in a series of posts called “3 New Things About the Nokia N900.” Link to first post.
Here is a video made in London in which Gary Birkett explains the Identity controller’s features. Note that the first and last sections, showing the Identity projection, were taken on an N900 (and the middle section by a simple POS camera):
EDIT: Here is onedotzero’s official video with Karsten and Gary:
The onedotzero festival is about the moving image, not computing or mobile telephony, which made it a non-obvious showcase for the N900. It combines “collaborative music, film and live performance, and playful interactivity, digital arts and culture,” and it inhabits a creative space exciting to the Wieden+Kennedy London advertising agency. (They explain that “the ideas and curiosities of Wieden+Kennedy inevitably overflow outside the traditional world of advertising. We are constantly experimenting with new forms of communication and creative expression.”)
So it seems really natural that W+K would attempt to express the identity of onedotzero this year by visualizing all the online discussion about the event on Twitter and the blogosphere, as well as at Flickr and Vimeo. To instantiate their idea, W+K turned to programmer Karsten Schmidt, who collected the various feeds, processing them in real-time using six powerful computers (and programming in the Processing language) to stream ribbons of text, very Matrix-y in its feel, into the shapes of letters.
To accentuate the real-time and interactive nature of, well, everything, the shapes formed by the text-ribbons were actual SMS messages texted from cellphones to the system. And to make it emphatically interactive (and mind-blowingly fun), the letter-shapes and text-ribbons could be stretched, twisted, revolved, animated, enlarged and frozen interactively.
To transform this conception from a mere artistic expression on a computer screen into festivalgoer-involved experience required those six HD projectors and an easily accessible (and easily used) controller.
That’s where Gary Birkett, our own lcuk, came into the picture. That and the events of 13 November 2008.
So instead of utilizing a Wii remote or Apple iPhone, both familiar, handheld devices with accelerometers in them, W+K opted for the jaunty, new soon-to-be-released N900 from its client, Nokia.* And Gary created an interface for the N900 for the accidental gameplayer handed the device. His app interprets a user’s twirling or shaking or screen-drawing for a seventh computer in Karsten’s array, which causes the huge projection to respond instantaneously.
To manage this, Gary used his own liqbase framework to create his application. And, like other liqbase modules, this controller will be distributed as open-source software.
* That’s the real world, and I’m not complaining or ruing the events that led to my being invited to London to see the whole thing come together. Thanks to WOM World / Nokia, in fact! But the uniqueness of the N900 will come across more clearly when the PUSH project winners appear.