The Augmented Hand Series is a real-time interactive software system that presents playful, dreamlike, and uncanny transformations of its visitors’ hands. Conceived as a tool for muddling embodied cognition, the installation consists of a box into which a visitor inserts their hand, and a display that shows their “reimagined” hand, altered by various dynamic and structural transformations.
The system uses the real-time posture of the participant’s real hand as the moment-to-moment baseline for its transformations. Participants are free to use either of their hands and, within certain limits, the system works properly even with visitors who wiggle their fingers, or who move and turn their hand.
Critically, the project’s transformations operate within the logical space of the hand itself. That is to say: the artwork performs “hand-aware” visualizations that alter the deep structure of how the hand appears—unlike, say, a funhouse mirror, which simply distorts the entire field of view.
The hand is a critical interface to the world, allowing the use of tools, the intimate sense of touch, and a vast range of communicative gestures. Yet we frequently take our hands for granted, thinking with them, or through them, but hardly ever about them. Our investigation takes a position of exploration and wonder. Can real-time alterations of the hand’s appearance bring about a new perception of the body as a plastic, variable, unstable medium? Can such an interaction instill feelings of defamiliarization, prompt a heightened awareness of our own bodies, or incite a reexamination of our physical identities? Can we provoke simple wonder about the fact that we have any control at all over such a complex structure as the hand?
About twenty different transformations have been developed. Some of these perform structural edits to the hand’s archetypal form, cutting-and-pasting the visitor’s digital body; others endow the hand with new dimensions of plasticity; and others imbue the hand with a kind of autonomy, whose resulting behavior is a dynamic negotiation between visitor and algorithm. These scenes include: • Plus One: The hand obtains an additional finger. • Minus One: The hand has one finger omitted. • Extra Knuckle: Each finger has an extra phalange. • One Knuckle Fewer: Each finger has a phalange omitted. • Two Thumbs: The thumb is copy-pasted to the other side of the hand. • Transposed Thumb: The thumb is relocated to the other side of the hand. • Fractal Hand: Each finger terminates in a small hand. • Throbbing Fingers: The fingers appear to throb, as with a heartbeat. • Variable Finger Length: The fingers’ length changes over time. • Meandering Fingers: The fingers take on a life of their own. • Procrustes: All fingers are made the same length. • Lissajous: The palm is warped in a periodic way. • Breathing Palm: The palm inflates and deflates. • Vulcan Salute: The third and fourth fingers are cleaved. • Angular Exaggeration: Finger adduction and abduction angles are amplified. • Springers: Finger movements are exaggerated by bouncy simulated physics.
Golan Levin (US) explores the intersection of abstract communication and interactivity. Blending equal measures of the whimsical, the provocative and the sublime in a wide variety of media, Levin applies creative twists to digital technologies that highlight our relationship with machines, expand the vocabulary of human action and awaken participants to their own potential as creative actors. At Carnegie Mellon University, he is Associate Professor of Electronic Art and serves as Director of the Frank-Ratchye Studio for Creative Inquiry, a laboratory dedicated to supporting atypical, anti-disciplinary and inter-institutional research projects across the arts, science, technology and culture.Chris Sugrue
Chris Sugrue (US) is an artist and engineer who develops interactive installations, audio-visual performances and experimental interfaces. Her works experiment with technology in playful and curious ways and investigate topics such as artificial life, gestural performance and optical illusions. She has exhibited internationally in such festivals and galleries as Ars Electronica, Sónar Festival, Pixel Gallery, Medialab-Prado, Matadero Madrid, and La Noche En Blanco Madrid. She teaches new media arts at The Parsons School of Design in Paris.Kyle McDonald
Kyle McDonald (US) works with sounds and codes, exploring translation, contextualization, and similarity. With a background in philosophy and computer science, he strives to integrate intricate processes and structures with accessible, playful realizations that often have a do-it-yourself, open-source aesthetic. He enjoys creatively subverting networked communication and computation, exploring glitch and embedded biases, and extending these concepts to the reversal of everything from personal identity to work habits. Kyle is a member of FAT Lab, community manager for openFrameworks and an adjunct professor at the NYU ITP.
The Augmented Hand Series was conceived and developed by Golan Levin, Chris Sugrue, and Kyle McDonald, with additional software assistance from Dan Wilcox, Bryce Summers, Erica Lazrus, and Zachary Rispoli. The project was commissioned by the Cinekid Festival, with support from the Mondriaan Fund, and developed at the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University with additional support from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier.
The Augmented Hand Series was developed in openFrameworks. The project could not have been possible without several open-source C++ addons generously contributed by others in the openFrameworks community: ofxPuppet by Zach Lieberman, based on Ryan Schmidt's implementation of As-Rigid-As-Possible Shape Manipulation by Takeo Igarashi et al.; ofxLeapMotion by Theo Watson, with updates by Dan Wilcox; ofxCv, ofxLibdc, and ofxTiming by Kyle McDonald; ofxCvMin and ofxRay by Elliot Woods; and the ofxButterfly code for mesh subdivision, by Bryce Summers. Adam Carlucci's helpful tutorial on using the Accelerate Framework in openFrameworks was also essential to achieving satisfactory frame rates.