[ i miss your touch ] – Staying Connected During COVID-19

[ i miss your touch ] is a web platform that allows two friends, who are in separate locations, to co-create a real-time artwork within a shared virtual environment. This project launched in mid-March 2020 as a rapid response to COVID-19 lockdown and physical distancing rules.

This artwork is a live collaboration between the participants and PluginHUMAN. [ i miss your touch ] responds to people’s movement. PluginHUMAN affect, in real-time, live video streams from participants’ webcams. This artwork makes people feel as if they are together in the one space making art. Participants instantly see the creative effect of their movements and interactions. People can also experience virtual touch. This work allows friends, who are in separate locations, to play and create art together in a shared virtual 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

People use a booking system to engage with the artwork. Each booking is for a 10-minute experience. Bookings are free. Each participant is emailed a unique URL that allows them access to the artwork at a specific time. People can book a solo experience (one of the artists joins them, via webcam, and together they create the artwork), or a double booking (they elect a friend and together, via webcam, they create the artwork). Participants need a computer with a built-in webcam and a basic internet connection.

During their experience, each participant sees a web interface that shows: their own video stream, the video stream of their friend/the artist, 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 video footage from participants’ engagement with this artwork has also been compiled into a 5-minute video artwork. This will be screened at future public events as an imprint of the physical separation experienced by many during 2020.

INNOVATION

Our aim was to create a unique online interactive artwork that is accessible to broad audiences. Participants don’t need specialist equipment or skills. This work is seemingly simple. Yet this artwork involves high level computer 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 the one location. This is something that is normally achieved with specialised hardware and software systems such as social VR. [ i miss your touch ] is accessible to anyone with a computer, a webcam and internet connection. Through this work we democratise 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

Peter Walker ~ Creative Coder

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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