Photo credit: Windell H. Oskay,
on creative engineering and new media art

Spatial Sounds (100 dB at 100 km/h) (2000)

February 5th, 2008

Spatial Sounds

Interactive audio installation by Marnix de Nijs and Edwin van der Heide

A large loudspeaker is mounted on a motorized arm. The arm rotates at varying speeds, up to 100 km/h. An ultrasonic distance sensor is mounted on the speaker, reading the distance to the nearest object (visitor!). As the arm rotates it is keeping track of the angle and distance to update a map and responds to changes – this is how it interacts with people. It can do different things, such as “stop and look” at approaching visitors, making different sounds when it’s doing different things.

I saw this piece at Ars Electronica in 2001 and really liked it. It’s one of those pieces that you really need to see in real life – a very visceral experience. The interaction also manages to hit that sweet spot between the boringly predictable and the boringly random, giving you the feeling that there is some alien intelligence at work here.

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