Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Drawing a tango picture - a sensor and computing project

Apropos of a post on Tango-L, it would be so beautiful if I could record the movements of my feet as little comet-trails of light on a video screen representing the floor.

Of course there would have to be a way of recording the music at the same time. It would be nice if the intensity of the trails could represent the degree of pressure, and their length could correspond in some way to the beat or the character of the music. But if these things were configurable by a human that would be fine, it needn't be entirely automatic.

As far as I could tell, the author of the Tango-L message had something much simpler in mind. [Edit: here's what he is working with.] But what would we need to achieve what I'm thinking of?

  • Some kind of wireless motion detector that can go in the toes of my shoes without interfering with the dancing. It has to detect and transmit position as well as pressure. That might mean that there has to be something special about the floor - if so, it has to be danceable as well.
  • The receiver.
  • A computer to connect the receiver to, and some software to do the following:
  • Record and plot the transmissions on a representation of the floor. It might work better if the computer were also playing the music and could process that stream at the same time. At least I think that's a possible solution.
  • Output the results as a video file, with some configurable settings as how exactly the movement is represented. It might look a bit like 'visualisations' in music player software.

My guess is that the sensor part is probably the most difficult, but I'm not sure where the technology is right now. An important milestone, let's call it Phase I, would be to record the entire dance as a single static squiggle; from there, you add the dimensions of pressure and time. I can imagine that getting everything properly synchronised with the music might be tricky, too, but that would be less of a problem in, say, a university computing department than it is in my world.

Another thought: it would be best if the entire sole of the foot could be represented, with the heel seperate from the toe. They do different things. So maybe at least four sensors are required for each person. But not necessarily in Phase 1.

A project for someone's computing and interface course, I think (and Doug).

Phase 3 is commercialisation. Lots of DJs play their music from a computer. Wouldn't it be amusing, and perhaps lucrative for the DJ, if you could slip some little widget into your shoes, and buy and take home a file of your dance? Not like a video of yourself, but a video of your dance without you in it?

I can just see myself drawing little zigzags and heart shapes on the floor instead of those boring old circles. Wouldn't that video file make a nice present for your favourite partner?


Psyche said...

One of the couples at Tangomagia this year did something like this - they danced on a sheet which sensed their footsteps, and a projector above them projected corresponding patterns - little ripples, or bubbles, or geometric shapes which first grew then faded - and they danced interacting with the trail they were leaving behind them.

La Tanguerita said...

Psyche,could you be talking about Solange and Gonzalo?

Psyche said...

Yes! Thank you. I'd forgotten their names.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a job for Kingswood Warren. They could harness the technology used for generating Gollum in Lord of the Rings. Bluescreen background and spots on your shoes.

msHedgehog said...

It's not so much the movement of the feet in three-dimensional visual space, as with Gollum's joints, but more their interaction with the two-dimensional surface of the floor, that's the point of special interest in tango. Have a look at Adrian and Amanda, a few posts ago, to see what I mean (especially the second video linked from the bottom of that post). There is a 3-D aspect but it's quite minor, and the relationship to the floor is still crucial.

Chris said...

"One of the couples at Tangomagia this year did something like this - they danced on a sheet which sensed their footsteps, and a projector above them projected corresponding patterns"

Here's the video.