[ i miss your touch ] – staying connected during COVID and beyond

[ i miss your touch ] transports two people who are in seperate locations into a shared virtual environment. This unique online space launched in March 2020 as a rapid response to pandemic conditions. This award-winning interactive video artwork helps people maintain meaningful social and physical connections with each other, and provides a personalised art experience.

[ i miss your touch ] is a live collaboration between the participants and PluginHUMAN (Dr Betty Sargeant and Justin Dwyer, the artists). The artwork responds to people’s movements. PluginHUMAN affect, in real-time, live video streams from participants’ webcams. People can instantly see the creative effects of their movements and interactions. They can also experience virtual touch. [ i miss your touch ] makes people feel as if they are together in one space. It allows friends, who are in separate locations, to dance, to virtually hug and to interact in a shared online environment.

During 2020, many people have been without physical contact with others due to pandemic lockdown and physical distancing rules. [ i miss your touch ] provides a way to maintain meaningful connections with others and meaningful engagement with art during this unprecedented global situation.

HOW IT WORKS

Participants book a time and are emailed a unique URL. Each experience is 10-minutes. People can book a solo experience (one of the artists joins them, via webcam), or a double booking (they elect a friend and together, via webcam, they engage with the artwork). Participants need a computer with a built-in webcam and a basic internet connection.

During their allocated time participants are given access to the web platform. They see their own video stream, the video stream of the other person, and the compiled animated vision of themselves and the other person moving together. Participants hear the same music but cannot talk to each other. This artwork encourages people to communicate via movement.

During local (Victorian and Australian) COVID-19 lockdown times, the weekly interactions with this artwork were streamed live and projected onto the exterior of PluginHUMAN’s studio. There was no audience for this weekly public presentation of the artwork. This operated as a haunting reflection of the isolation conditions of these times. The footage from participants’ engagement with this artwork has been edited into a short art-film. This art-film reflects people’s experiences of COVID-19 home lockdown.

INNOVATION

The aim was to create a unique online interactive artwork that’s accessible to broad audiences. Participants don’t need specialist equipment or skills. This work is seemingly simple. Yet it involves complex programming in order to allow people to appear together in real-time in a single, shared virtual environment. This virtual environment allows people to explore and experience virtual touch. It provides the feeling that you are actually physically together in one location. Participants don’t need to download software nor login. [ i miss your touch ] is accessible to anyone with a computer, a webcam and internet connection. Through this work PluginHUMAN democratises access to progressive, real-time, interactive virtual environments.

This artwork is not delivered on a website. [ i miss your touch ] is ephemeral and operates in real-time. Participants access a web platform (a custom-coded Node.js “app spot” that is cloud hosted). The artwork is streamed to each participant via a unique URL in real-time. The video stream is compiled in TouchDesigner using Python and it is manually effected in real-time by PluginHUMAN. The outcome is a live collaboration between the participants and the artists.

A version of this artwork was developed specifically for 9-12 yr-old children. The children’s version of this artwork is called [ you and me ]. Thanks to Artplay and City of Melbourne.

PluginHUMAN: Betty Sargeant & Justin Dwyer. BREATHE environmental light installation.

PluginHUMAN: Betty Sargeant & Justin Dwyer. Interactive artwork for remote audiences. [ i miss your touch ]

PluginHUMAN: Betty Sargeant & Justin Dwyer. BREATHE environmental light installation.

CREDITS

Betty Sargeant ~ Artist

Justin Dwyer ~ Artist

Andrew Ogburn ~ Music

Peter Walker ~ Creative Coder

Thanks to the Exertion Games Lab, Monash University, Australia.

Thanks to Artplay and City of Melbourne

RELATED PROJECTS:

PluginHUMAN DREAM 2.2 - Interactive brainwave art installation. Betty Sargeant and Justin Dwyer.
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PluginHUMAN: Betty Sargeant & Justin Dwyer. Inter-Dream: a VR Lullaby Machine
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PluginHUMAN: Betty Sargeant & Justin Dwyer. BREATHE: LED immersive installation.
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