When digital art and physical sculptures are melded together, the resulting creation can be spectacular and strange. Recently, visitors to an exhibition at Eyebeam, an NYC-based art and technology center, discovered what happens when you throw 3D interaction into the mix. You become an artist yourself – creating between the real and unreal. You become part of Ascension.

The exhibit was a collaboration between multimedia artist William Ismael and sculptor Carrie Mae Rose. At Hackerloop, an innovation lab and hardware playground, William has been developing interactive experiences to bring rooms to life. Carrie Mae is known for her evocative sculptures that shock and endanger – working in wire, scissors, and razor blades.

Ascension reflects their different backgrounds – bringing together a hand-built tetrahedral wing structure with digital animations and motion control to become something new. Recently, we caught up with William to ask about his creative process and the work that went into creating Ascension. Plus, a preview of his next installation, Visual Composer – which lets him generate live visuals with his fingers.


Starting Point: Inspiration

My biggest visual influences are nature, the sky, the ocean, the cosmos, sacred geometry, architecture, mathematics, and human-built objects. What inspired me to use Leap Motion was the possibility of using our main manual tools as human beings – our hands – to generate animated art, in real physical spaces, in real time. It personalizes the spatial experience because people become co-creators of the space in a very intuitive way.

With the Leap Motion Controller, people become co-creators of the space in a very intuitive way.

Installations bring people together in a physical space, so using the Leap Motion Controller for the Ascension installation made it not just art to look at, but something reactive – in a unique co-creative experience. Leap Motion control was critical in giving people the power of triggering and controlling the animations of the projection mapping. Its precision when it came to subtle movements and the use of fingers made it the right device to use.

Creative Process

Incorporating 3D motion-controlled projection mapping onto the 3-dimensional angel-winged sculpture on the wall was a very technical process, involving trials and successes. My first spatial experience with Leap Motion was not for a space, but an interactive art app for the desktop as a way to test it right away.

For Ascension, first I programmed an interactive animation on my desktop, where Leap Motion was used to control it with my hands. I played with it on my MacBook Pro until I got to a place that felt right. Colors were vibrating and forms were interlocking – all by waving my hands in the air.

The next step was mapping the 3D structure through the projector. Using Processing with MadMapper, I ran a code-generated 3D animation, with the interactive animation triggered by Leap Motion interaction on top of it. Finally, I ran up and down the stairs for an entire week to problem-solve and adjust the details. Two projectors were used in the final installation.

Visual Composer

William’s experiment with Ascension led to his next project – a visual composer that brings together psychedelic colors with splattering paint and abstract geometry. While it’s still in development, William hopes to take Visual Composer to the next level as a live performance tool.

3D Motion Control &  Performance

The ability to control motion graphics in a space with my body movements does not just change performance – it creates a new type of performance. The way coded animations precisely sync to my movements gives life to a new human experience through the way Leap Motion is used. I can now perform to a crowd live on a large stage with my movements creating real-time visuals. It’s extremely exciting.

An interactive room can be life-changing. It affects people emotionally…. It’s not happening on a screen, but in real life in a real space, where our senses are the most sensitive.

I think 3D motion control can radically turn a normal room into a living world – where we, as humans, affect the environment with a wave of our arms. An interactive room can be life-changing. It affects people emotionally. We’re affected by every detail of our environment. By creating such a space, people can be taken instantly to an incredible journey. It’s not happening on a screen, but in real life in a real space, where our senses are the most sensitive.

From high-concept art and storytelling to virtual objects and drone experiments – where would you like to take Leap Motion interaction? Let us know your favorite experiments with art, music, and design on Facebook and Twitter.