Aaron Koblin at Eyeo

Aaron (a LISA alum) started his talk by showing some of the projects he has worked on.

Aaron Koblin’s eCloud

He says: With eCloud, you see 3000 panels of privacy glass in the airport that change based on weather patterns.  I visualized cell phone calls on New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam.  In grad school I became obsessed with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.  This led to experiments with laser scanners, structured light scanners and lidar, before the Kinect came out.  I like playing music which makes you feel things differently.  I studied with Mark Hansen.

I met this guy at a European conference called OFFF.  I told him about a project I worked on called Bicycle Built for 2,000, which made a choir of people on Mechanical Turk.  The song is a reference to when computers became human in HAL.

I liked the Johnny Cash idea “Ain’t no grave can hold my body down”.  Seemed perfect.  We made the Johnny Cash Project.  The video is just a series of frames, and each person got delivered a specific frame of this archival video which was never seen before.  Over 250,000 people from 72 countries have participated do far.  “For each individual frame to be made by a fan… it’s just got a very powerful feeling to it” was one of the quotes from a contributor.

The drawing tool lets people see the progress of each other own individual drawing.  In the final project you can choose a speed and watch the process of creation, you can rate each frame,  you can see how long each person took to make their frame.

There’s no one Johnny Cash video.  It’s constantly recreating itself.  We restricted the video to greyscale and made people put things in the right general position.

The Johnny Cash Project

I’m leading a group at Google called the data arts team – DAT.  We’ve been working on a couple of things.  This is dat.gui, that let’s you expose variables in javascript.  I noticed Jer was using this, that was cool to see.  (Aaron shows a bunch of other things, a drawing tool, the basic stuff you need to build an RPG.)  All this stuff’s open source.  You can rip it apart and do what you want with it.  Here’s a project with Jellyfish.  One with the human body.

I worked on another project with Chris MilkThe Wilderness Downtown.  It’s a music video that was specifically made for the web.  Let’s try to create empathy with the main character.  Enter the address where you grew up.  It’s hard to explain it.  (He shows a video that shows some shots of where the person grew up, both arial view and street view from google.)  It makes the video take place where you grew up.

I’m excited about WebGL.  Processing is great but it’s difficult to share with people who don’t have the plugin or whatever. So I started talking with Chris about – what kind of narrative experience can we create with this?  There’s all kinds of realtime 3D graphics.  You enter these 3D worlds, it’s adding animated creatures.  There’s content created by people that gets put into the experience.  There’s a gallery where you can view people’s different submissions.  The part of this project that I like the most is it’s all open source.  We built a model viewer. Murata (?) made this buffalo-tarantula.  You can play with the parameters and expose the 3D rendering.  You can use the slider to slide back and forth between dog and bear.  You can play with the morphs.  You can turn off texturing.  (Here’s a nice description of the ROME project by Frank Aldorf).

There are some cool shader demos. And you can go in the upper right hand corner and say “show the code” and see it all.  Everybody from Google DAT is actually here and would be happy to answer questions.


The cost of the privacy glass was really expensive… they are hand cut and hand assembled and a lot of them go bad so you have to test them.  It ate up the entire budget. I learned a lot about physical projects.  Most of my projects are not, as a result.  I can’t bear the bureaucracy and the technicality.