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Schrödinger v. Cat

Rubber, wood, computer with custom software, video projector, LCD display
Rob Gonsalves: Schrödinger v. Cat

Schrödinger v. Cat is an interactive video installation that allows visitors to run experiments to test the famous quantum physics paradox devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger. In 1935, Schrödinger proposed a thought experiment to illustrate what he saw as a problem with the current theory of quantum mechanics of his time, the Copenhagen interpretation, as applied to everyday objects. The scenario presents a cat that might be alive or dead, depending on an earlier random event.

To run the experiment, press the large Setup button on the control panel. This starts an animated sequence that shows the apparatus being prepared for the experiment. Next, use the buttons and knob to indicate the subject of the experiment (either a cat or Schrödinger himself) and the quantum mechanics model (the Copenhagen interpretation, the many worlds interpretation, or the Hanna-Barbera interpretation).

Pressing the Start button runs the experiment for 60 seconds. During the run you can observe the interaction of the subject with the apparatus. Note that you (and other viewers in the gallery) are unobtrusively omniscient; you do not change the quantum state by observing the experiment. After the run, the cover of the chamber is opened to reveal the experiment to the giant eyeball overhead. This act of this "observation" affects the outcome of the experiment, to reveal if the physicist or cat is alive or dead.Watch on YouTube

Copenhagen Interpretation

In the Copenhagen interpretation, a system stops being a superposition of states and becomes either one or the other when an observation takes place. [Niels Bohr - The Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory, 1930]

Many-Worlds Interpretation

In the many-worlds interpretation, both alive and dead states of the cat persist after the box is opened, but are decoherent from each other. In other words, when the box is opened, the observer and the already-dead cat split into an observer looking at a box with a dead cat, and an observer looking at a box with a live cat. [Hugh Everett Theory of the Universal Wavefunction, Thesis, Princeton University, (1956, 1973), pp 1-140]

Hanna-Barbera Interpretation

The Hanna-Barbera interpretation of quantum mechanics generally follows the accepted laws of physics — unless it is funnier otherwise. For example, any violent rearrangement of feline matter is impermanent. Cats heal fast and/or have an infinite number of lives. [ACME Journal of Cartoon Physics, 10/94; V.18 #7 p.12, 1980]

Campaign Horse

wood, basketball, guy-wires, video projector, 3-axis accelerometer, computer with custom software
Artwork by [user-name]

Campaign Horse is an interactive video installation that allows the visitor to participate in a modified version of the basketball game "Horse". This version of the game pits Team Blue against Team Red, using actual caustic insults from the recent national elections.

In the original schoolyard game Horse, the objective is to get your opponent labeled a horse, one letter at a time, by making basketball shots. The insult start with an “h”, then “ho”, “hor”, “hors”, and finally progresses to when player is labeled a “horse”, which ends the game. Unlike the standard game, in Campaign Horse the ensuing insults are not initially known, but are revealed through the course of the game. All insults in the game were uttered (if not shouted) by rival candidates in the vitriolic 2010 congressional elections.

There are two main visual components in Campaign Horse, a projected screen and a physical basketball suspended by guy-wires. The screen shows the following components:

  • A list of insults from previous rounds, for Team Blue and for Team Red
  • A reference map showing Blue States and Red States
  • A basket ball hoop and net
  • The current insults in play, which mark progress in the game

The basketball is the means of interaction with the piece. The ball is tethered by two guy-wires and can be tossed by visitors in the direction of the net. Although the guy-wires will prevent the ball from travelling far, there is a 3-axis accelerometer in the ball. This sends a signal to the controlling computer, triggering a virtual ball to travel towards the net. A physics simulation will determine if the ball goes through the hoop or not. Note that, as an aesthetic touch, the net is rendered using an intricate spring-model simulation for a realistic look.

As the game goes on, the players alternate shots. If Team Red makes a shot, then a new letter is revealed in the insult against Team Red. If Team Blue makes a shot, then a red insult letter is revealed. This play continues until one of the insults is fully revealed which ends the round, and a new round starts. Note that the opposing insults always have the same number of letters in each round. Also note that sound effects can be heard when the ball hits the backboard, bounces off the rim, and swishes through the net.

When Campaign Horse has been idle for a while, (i.e. if there have been no players interacting with the piece for five minutes), the installation enters “demo” mode. In this mode, the system runs as if people are playing the game, automatically tossing balls and revealing insults. If new players come and interact with the basketball, the system snaps back into interactive mode, proceeding with a new game.

By interacting with Campaign Horse, perhaps visitors will get a sense of what it is like to have unfounded insults and accusations directed against them. There is the added benefit of being able to hurl some insults right back at your opponent.

LumaTouch Synesthesia

wood, Plexiglas, fluorescent lights, computer with custom software, webcam, video projector, headphones, speakers
Artwork by [user-name]

LumaTouch Synesthesia is an interactive system for creating abstract artwork with electronic music by manipulating tangible objects. The system consists of a light table with five movable objects on the surface, four small cubes and a small cylinder. By manipulating these objects, the user can simultaneously create an abstract painting and compose electronic music to complement the painting. The phenomenon of synesthesia is experienced literally in the creation of color and sound.
The location and rotation of the four cubes are detected by a webcam in the light table. The custom software uses these inputs to choose up to eight of 16 reference images to be morphed and combined for the painting and up to eight of 16 music loops to be mixed for the song. The cylinder is used to change the color of the images and the musical key of the song.
While a viewer is interacting with the piece, it will show the digital painting projected on the wall behind the light table, and play music at a moderate volume level in the room. Headphones are also available to allow the operator to listen more closely. The user can retrieve his/her painting by sliding the “ROBGON” gadget to the center of the light table. The image will be uploaded to and instructions for retrieval will appear on the screen.
LumaTouch uses OpenFrameworks, an open-source C++ library for creative coding. The tracking used by LumaTouch is based on the concepts from TrackMate, an open-source tracking system. The reference paintings are from the Smithsonian Institute Website,, and are used in accordance with the Smithsonian's terms of use. Some of the music loops are original and some are from and are used in accordance with their terms of use. I would like to thank Jennifer Lim for her help with this project.

the phenomenology of painting (Albers machine)

3 stretched and gessoed canvases, 3D animation with sound, software, video projector, speakers, computer
Artwork by [user-name]

This new body of work is an extension of my previous explorations, in which I created a series of interactive installations and sculptures featuring lifelike 3D animated forms. That work investigated empathy, and the way we come to identify with the objects of our gaze, be they living or technological. In this new work, which I am calling “unspecific objects” (in both parody of, and homage to Donald Judd’s famous essay, Specific Objects), my goal is to use projected 3D animation combined with material forms to create objects that have a strong physical, almost lifelike presence. Despite their simple formal constraints, they elicit an awareness of our process of perception, and the difference between perceiving and knowing. They also expose the anthropomorphism latent in our perception of even the most minimal of objects.
the phenomenology of painting (Albers machine) specifically explores the relationship of abstract painting to spatial illusion. Throughout the last 100 years there has been much discussion of the “nature” of painting, and the relative value of acknowledging the flatness of the picture plane vs. explicitly creating the illusion of depth. This piece both pokes fun at and investigates these stances by creating the illusion of depth in three wall-mounted objects that very closely resemble Joseph Albers' paintings from the series “Homage to the Square.”

Masked Thoughts

wood, mirror, computer with custom software, webcam, video projector, foam board, mic. stands
Artwork by [user-name]

Masked Thoughts is an interactive video installation that allows viewers to try on virtual masks, and think virtual thoughts. The installation is comprised of the following components: a large mirror mounted in a wooden frame, a video projector and video camera mounted on top of the frame, and two projection surfaces mounted on mic stands in front of the mirror. One of the projection surfaces is a mask with eyeholes cut out. The other surface is a thought balloon - comic book style. Both surfaces are front/back symmetric and can be swiveled around to face the other side.

A webcam provides a video feed to the CPU, which scans the area and detects changes to the mask and thought balloon. Swiveling the surfaces cause the projected images to change in real-time. Turn the mask around, see a different face. Turn the thought balloon around, see a different thought. Note that the surfaces can be changed at any time, in any order.

A variety of recognizable faces are available to try on: politicians, historical figures, entertainers, etc.

Optoma DLP

Welded steel, projector, laptop
Artwork by [user-name]

This piece is a nine foot tall structure that holds a projector at its top, and projects moving images down over itself. The images are carefully masked, so that they land precisely on one or more different panels at different times. The imagery has to do with buildings under construction, and often includes images of the sculpture itself in different contexts.


Acrylic modeling resin, foam board, wood, steel, servo motor, micro-controller, custom software, webcam, video projectors
Artwork by [user-name]

FaceLifter is an interactive video installation that allows the viewer to see his/her face projected on a 3d mask. The mask is mechanically raised and lowered to allow the viewer to see him/herself eye-to-eye.
An outline of shoes marks the spot on the floor where the viewer can get a closer look at FaceLifter (and FaceLifter can get a closer look at the viewer). The viewer's faces is illuminated by lights mounted on the column. A web camera mounted above the mask captures the viewer's image, which is algorithmically identified and processed with a hidden computer.
The mask, rendered in white acrylic resin, is mounted on the surface of a column attached to vertical rails. A computer controlled motor inside the column lifts the mask to the height of the viewer.
A video stream of the face is projected via two ceiling-mounted projectors. The projectors are mounted diagonally to allow the viewer to get close to the mask without casting a shadow. The images are adjusted vertically by the computer to track with the mask.
The overall effect of the installation is to allow the viewers to see themselves as they appear to others.
The face finding algorithm is by Philip Abbet, from the IDIAP Research Institute, in Valais, Switzerland.
Thanks to Jennifer Lim, Vivien Leone, and William Tremblay.

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