Excitable Sites is a collaborative research project to develop interactive textiles that enable and augment dynamic performance environments: textiles that occupy and inhabit a space (or form it) rather than just decorate it. We will produce four textile-based artifacts for interactive performance, which explore the body as a mobile entity in constant communicative interaction with its environment. The prototypes will explore the following categories: (a) architectural textiles for sensing (woven fiber substrates that allow simple gesture recognition), (b) body-worn textiles for gestural input (sensor-enabled wearable artifacts), (c) architectural textiles for data visualization, and (d) body-worn display textiles. These four pieces will be developed through a series of workshops involving an iterative and collaborative design process.
Experimentation with sensing/physical animation of materials: We have examined low cost, minimal technology-based solutions to physically animate and actuate materials. Based on the workshop led by co-PI Barbara Layne in September 2005, we studied more in depth the process of papermaking, both at small and large-scale sheet capacity. Having learned the basic process, experimentation is beginning with embedding sensing and small actuators into the paper substrates, to see what kinds of physical movement can be obtained from the actuators. We are currently looking at using conductive ink to power the actuators and sensors in order to avoid the problem of fragile wiring inside the paper itself. It is hoped that the actuation will be of a sufficient degree to be seen by a seated audience at a distance within a performance context that the size of the actuated paper can be enlarged. It is also desired that multiple copies of the actuated paper can be put together so that a larger actuated surface could be constructed that would give the effect of moving textures that can be either floor or table top mounted. Additionally, we plan to introduce sensing into the paper substrate that can monitor the amount of actuator vibration and thus provide sensor data that can be synthesized and sonified in the audio domain.
Audio synthesis for active materials: The third stream of research being undertaken is the audio synthesis and sonification of sensor data that will be derived from the active materials research. As part of this, Chris Salter has hired two RA’s (Philip Viel and Daniel Grigsby) who are experienced in audio production and programming to begin work on developing real time synthesis models for synthesizing sensor data by way of audio. Work in this area encompasses two directions: (1) exploration of HFC and LFC content (high and low frequency) content that will be used for auditorily augmenting responsive/active materials and (2) real time, direct sound synthesis of body-based sensor data (breath and acceleration) and room-based sensor data (from active materials positioned in the room). Work is commencing in developing synthesis and signal processing “modules” in the high level, open source real time software synthesis environment Supercollider for direct (raw) data coming from the active materials. It is planned that this work will be combined with the work of the other PI’s to handle the auditory segment of the Excitable Sites project in early 2006.