The summer has flown by so quickly and if you have been around town during August and September you might have spotted the G.Hack troops Ilze, Kavin, Alice, Nic, Sam, Sara and myself armed with audio recorders, headphones, video cameras, iPhones and digital cameras having a cup of tea at some of the 100 favourite London Tea Houses across the 33 London boroughs. It’s all been a part of gathering content for the G.Hack’s new interactive installation, commissioned by MzTEK to be shown at Chi-TEK Tea Party at the V&A, during Digital Design Weekend on Saturday 24 & Sunday 25 September 2011.
The brief was to take a teapot and use technology to modify/hack/enhance it. Somewhere during the brainstorming process we decided to take another route and instead of hacking into a teapot make an interactive tabletop installation that would allow V&A Tea Party visitors to navigate London through its contemporary tea culture. Hence the Sound Mapping London Tea Houses installation was born!
Extensive lists of tea houses across 33 boroughs were complied by our project leader and all around super gal Ilze and having secured initial funding for the built of the installation we went on to figure out what other equipment we might need in order to make it all work. We found out that Antonella made a type of Reactable to do some tangible interaction testing last year, so we asked her to tell us a bit about the technology behind it. Reactable, a tangible modular synthesizer first developed at Music Technology Group (MTG), has set the standards for tangible multi-touch applications. It uses tracking system reacTIVision, which is an open source, cross-platform computer vision framework for tracking of fiducial markers attached onto physical objects, as well as multi-touch finger tracking. As the surface of the first teapot we wanted to use in the installation was smaller than the size of fiducial marker, we instead decided to wire 3 infrared LED’s together to make a trackable ‘blob’. We than bought a georgeous glass teapot and placed the IR LED’s right at the bottom of it. Alice constructed the map of London boroughs in Illustrator, than exported into Processing, which, using a camera with Infrared lens reads the teapot’s position, changes the colour of that borough to RED and sends the message to MaxMsp to play the corresponding tea house soundscape through a pair of external speakers. Simple and fun !!!
So, in the last days before the event Ilze and Kavin worked around the clock to make a miniature teapot to be exhibited at the V&A ahead of the Chi_TEK Tea Party …
and edit a short video of how it all works.
Alice got loads of papers into conferences, went on holiday, passed her MPhil/PhD upgrade and is currently at IRCAM getting her head around all sorts of fun audio tools and tinkering with the installation MaxMsp patch between workshops and lectures …
I went out to the english countryside to have a cup of tea and chat with some inspirational tea house owners and together with Ilze visited the Twinings Tea Shop & Museum where lovely Adele Fleming shared with us some wonderful stories about the history of tea drinking in the world and in the UK and showed us how to taste the tea using a big spoon and an even bigger slurp (needless to say, when I demonstrated my newly acquired tea tasting skills in front of my friends and family at the BBQ last weekend, the tea went from the spoon straight onto my shirt – they were very entertained indeed !)
Nicola had a wonderful time travelling in UK and abroad and upon returning to QM took on a role of sound recordist, editor, carpenter and a model for a few hours so we can take some photos for the exhibition flyer (Doesn’t she look brill in the polka dot tea dress ???)
I have an early start tomorrow (a cup of tea is waiting for me at the Deli Teahouse in Havering) so I must go to bed, but will be back soon with more sound, photos and videos of the whole process and of course the Tea Party at the V&A !!!
Goodnight my G.Hack troops, wherever you are …