Carry Your Frequencies

When people look at their phones during an event, that’s generally an indication of boredom. And when people bury their heads into screens on the subway, it’s an escape from the public space, a way to avoid making eye contact with strangers.

I do these things all the time. I know it’s rude. But it’s becoming a social norm as we come to terms with the myriad ways our devices augment our reality.

What if our devices could enhance, rather than diminish, our sense of presence? What if you could connect with people around you through shared participation in an augmented reality?

I’m working with Jia to develop an immersive audio-visual experience using smart phones, bluetooth, and possibly Google Cardboard. It’s a creative exploration of interactions mediated by technology.

We’re honing in on a couple variations on this concept, which Jia outlined here.

One idea is that every participant will emit a frequency that fellow participants can hear and modulate. The “carrier frequency” can have multiple parameters, like amplitude, detune, filter frequency, delay time, and delay feedback. The amount of modulation is dependent on distance between the modulator and carrier. As participants get closer, they’ll modulate each others frequencies with greater intensity. Some of the frequencies might be slow enough that they’ll create a rhythm, while others will be faster to create a sort of drone.

Here’s a sketch of what this might be like using one phone and some Estimotes:

The frequencies can be mapped to visuals as well. The participants would wear their phones over their eyes with Cardboard, and they’ll see a slightly augmented version of what’s in front of them.

Initially we’d hoped to use three or four iBeacons to triangulate every participant’s location in the room. If the phone is on your head, we could use the compass to figure out which direction participants are facing. From there, we could associate each frequency with specific coordinates in the room, and run these through the web audio api’s Head-Related Transfer Function to create a 3D/binaural audio effect. That’s probably out of the scope of this project, but it would be pretty cool!


I was inspired by “Drops,” one of several IRCAM CoSiMa projects, which was also performed at the Web Audio Conference

Janet Cardiff’s Walks, with binaural audio

Audience participation in performances by Dan Deacon and Plastikman tho that’s not quite what we’re going for.

Golan Levin’s Informal Catalog of Mobile Phone Performance – lotsa good inspiration here.

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