2005 Rockefeller New Media Foundation Proposal
I propose a collection of conceptually-oriented interactive installations, called the Eye Contact Systems, which explore the questions: what if artworks could know that we were looking at them? And, given this knowledge, what if they could look back at us? The Eye Contact Systems are intended to explore the possibilities of granting interactive artworks with new perceptive capabilities-namely, knowing where we are looking-and new expressive means, namely, simulated mechanical eyes that can look at us. The series of artworks proposed here are made possible by recent advances in gaze-tracking technology. This term refers to a set of computer-vision techniques, wherein a computer fitted with a high-resolution video camera is able to reliably estimate where a subject is looking. Thus, although the individual pieces in the proposed series take a variety of forms (including wall projections, small mechatronic sculptures, and roomlike installations), they share (in addition to their common thematic thread) the common technical infrastructure of a gaze-tracking system. It happens that this infrastructure is difficult to create, while many of the individual artworks proposed here will be relatively simple to build, once the infrastructure is in place. This proposal, therefore, seeks support to develop such a technical infrastructure, as well as the many artworks that it will make possible.