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Sign Language

Jul 26, 2013 1:11 PM, By Tim Kridel

Interactivity options for digital signage.

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When the system was ready for installation, Carpenter didn’t simply hand SenovvA a thumb drive or DVD of code for them to load into the Minis. Instead, he was hands on, which isn’t surprising considering his background. Carpenter’s day job is as an engineer at Oblong Industries, a company whose founder inspired the gesture technology seen in the 2002 Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. Carpenter also has a private art practice, and in both, much of his time is spent programming.

“TRAILERS_LUPO” uses a program called Processing, a creative coding environment that Carpenter developed for artists and designers. The algorithms change the artwork based on environmental factors, so it never looks the same way twice. “It means you’re not dealing with a looped video,” Carpenter says. “You’re always getting something different.”

For Carpenter, the Mini is an ideal environment for realizing his visions. “One of the things we talked about is whether to use a simple video player or whether we needed a computer,” he says. “I like the Mac Mini because I’ve worked with them a lot, and they’re small and reliable.

“It’s the best solution for me right now. It’s a good space to write code in, and it behaves fairly predictably and reliably. I know a number of artists and creative coders that work with them just for the ease of installation.”


Trattoria del Lupo is an example of some of the ways that pro AV is changing. First, the use of Mac Minis instead of specialized AV hardware is part of the ongoing trend of AV-IT integration. Second, the project highlights the benefits of having the integrator work early, often, and well with a specialist from a different field. In some cases, that’s a building management engineer or an architect. Here, it was an artist. “Good open conversation, plus trusting that each group is good at what they’re doing” is what Carpenter believes is key for a great working relationship. “The expertise that they brought with the hardware and installation was fantastic. Working with SenovvA allowed me to focus on the code and artwork. I knew they were going to take care of the hardware and integration.”

“TRAILERS_LUPO” has been enough of a success that more interactivity is coming. The bar currently has four displays, but there’s room for another two if Trattoria del Lupo decides to expand the artwork. In the meantime, SenovvA and Carpenter have begun work on the area just behind the bar. Currently there are several French doors that lead to a small storage area. Those are being modified so that patrons see what appears to be a live street scene, with people walking by and trees moving in the wind. During the daytime, the scene will be lighter. The artwork is called “FIELDS_sinapis.”

“It’s a feeling of being somewhere else,” Kelly says.

In future interactive art projects, SenovvA will apply what it learned with “TRAILERS_LUPO.” For example, Carpenter currently accesses the system via a VPN, a design that SenovvA probably will avoid in the future.

“Since it’s more involved now with the systems, we’ll probably get involved with their IT department to plan on having a port opened just for us to keep it easy,” Kelly said. “They’re going to do more of these down the road, so maybe it’s time to start talking to them about integrating our allocation in their network for taking care of things. That’s becoming a trend. Everybody has to give people ports for the outside world to come in.”

That’s also yet another example of why AV integrators need IT skills these days and why they need to come into a project early on, when it’s cheaper and easier to make fundamental decisions about networks and other aspects.

“People call us to do a lot of black-box, weird things,” Kelly says. “We’re lucky enough to sit at the owner’s table at the stakeholder level to help them figure out if things can become reality and help them save money from the beginning. We value engineer it before it even gets to the RFP.”

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