The Crown Fountain has become an iconic part of Millennium Park in Chicago. It's an interactive work of public art designed by artist Jaume Plensa that was installed in 2004. The fountain consists of two 50 foot towers made out of glass blocks, which have a huge array of LEDs that create an image on the side of the towers. Water cascades down the sides of the towers into a large granite reflecting pool. The piece encourages public interaction; during the summer kids fill the pool and stand under the flow of water from the towers.

Though Plensa designed the sculpture, it was executed by Krueck and Sexton Architects. The total cost of construction and design is estimated to be $17 million, and it costs the City of Chicago $400,000 a year to maintain.  Filming of the people on the towers was done at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago by 2o masters students in 2004.

The Fountain uses a large number of sensors to determine how to distribute water. The water falling from the top varies based off of the wind speed and direction to avoid loosing water due to splashing. Sensors in the pool measure water temperature and level and adjust the flow accordingly. The images displayed on the towers are randomly picked from a selection of around 1,000. Brightness and contrast of the video is automatically adjusted based off light conditions. When the faces "spit" a stream of water, the water and video are aligned across both towers. All the software written for this project was proprietary and runs on a number of controllers designed for shows.

Plensa was inspired by large European fountains with figures in the center. He wished to preserve the same principle but allow the public to become a part of the water feature. Where many decorative fountains are fenced off or prohibit public interaction, Crown Fountain encourages interaction. Instead of spitting gargoyles, Plensa enlisted Chicago residents to be the subjects in the ever changing face of the towers.


This project is an interactive installation called Rain Room (2012), produced by Random International, a team of artists headed by Florian Ortkrass and Hannes Koch who consider science as a new form of raw material for art making. The creation of this installation was somewhat accidental. Random International initially intended to create something that prints images with droplets of water, but along the way, the process started getting too complicated and convoluted so the team took a step back and crated the Rain Room. In order to make the interaction work correctly, they had to developed their own program to trace human movement with 3D tracking cameras. What I really admire about this work is that, it incorporates so many advanced technologies to work together to create a scenario that is basically impossible to experience in nature. In addition, the installation uses about 528 gallons of water but the water is ben constantly recycled to power the art work. Thus the water footprint is controlled to a manageable and reasonable amount.


Link to the work:

Title: Rain Room

Author: Random International

Year: 2012

rigatoni – LookingOutwards – 1

Hard Time MDickie

I am always fascinated by the kinds of video games that the rising amount of "one-man team" game developers can come up with. Developer Mat Dickle's 2007 game Hard Time is no exception. The player can design a custom avatar from an impressively wide variety of stats and appearance modifiers. He (and I use this pronoun because all avatars are suspiciously male) is then thrown into a prison environment with real-time events such as "lunch time", "lock down" and even the occasional "terrorist attack"!. It is evident that this game with all its procedurally ensuing hilarity is part of the trend of "great terrible games", a subversive genre of games that unabashedly feature comically poor characters, environments and purposefully cheesy dialogue. On my first play through I struggled with in-game obesity, depression and gang violence on a daily basis.


As I mentioned earlier, I was inspired by this game because I am in awe of the rich, dynamic self-contained gamespace and deeply comical characters that Mat Dickle has been able to create all by himself. And he isn't even remotely humble of his tendency to fly solo; crediting himself several times through all of his games' end credits and putting the following quote from Bruce Lee on the masthead of his website:


"The creative individual is more important than any established style or system"

--Bruce Lee


Although his writing style might be lacking in humility, an indie developer such as myself cannot help but feel a small, albeit vicarious, sense of empowerment to see a fellow developer compete with larger and better-funded teams to refreshingly unique content with a robust shelf life. I spent some time thinking on how a single developer team like Mat Dickle can produce seemingly vast content. It seems to me that he focused on reusability and symbolic abstractions wherever possibility. Creating assets for games is a costly and time-consuming process; wouldn't it maximize efficiency of these hard-earned assets to reuse them with procedurally generated modifications wherever possible rather than treating them as singletons? To compliment this reusability, we can also take advantage of the human tendency to find patterns and reduce complexity down to its core components and then restrict ourselves as developers to create only these components to create believable patterns and let the player project the superfluous details themselves.


From what reading I have done on Mat Dickle so far, it seems clear he has built his engines and tools himself; he credits himself for the creation of everything in his game. This is not hard to believe as Dickle as been working on open source games long before heavyweight engines like Unity and Unreal were open to the general public. As far as his inspirations, rather than standing on the shoulders of giants he seeks to topple them, expressing his distaste of "the bureaucracy of a team". While personally I cherish the opportunity to work with other developers every now and then, after experiencing some of Mat Dickle's solo work, I am compelled to set my sights higher and approach projects I may have once deemed out of my reach.




ARCADE SCAM SCIENCE (not clickbait) - Mark Rober

Mark Rober is a YouTube creator who uses a range of scientific and creative methods to solve curious problems. This project is a robot designed to cheat a specific arcade game where you have to press a button at just the right time. What I love about this project is that it's a perfect example of how the curious mind can discover the hidden order of chaotic events. When he doesn't get the result he expects, Mark tests each system of his device independently to narrow down where the problem is arising . From here he discovers how the arcade game he's testing is actually programmed to only allow a certain percent of plays to result in a win.

Mark Rober designed the concept and built the prototype with a friend (only referred to in the video as "John") over the course of a few weeks in his home studio.The device was made with 3D-printed parts and includes an Arduino programmed to depress a plunger when a flashing light is detected. This connects via WiFi to an app developed to give the user fine control of the delay between when a light flashes and when the plunger is activated.

Mark's whimsical and flashy style of projects can be seen in many YouTube creators' works. Channels like kipkay, Household Hacker, and G3AR are a few examples of makers who use engineering and critical thinking to produce the gadgets and technology they imagine. Videos like these are a fantastic way to introduce audiences to the creative and scientific process because they present it in a way that's fun and easy to relate to, not one that's confusing and alienating.

I would like to see an entire portfolio of different mechanisms to cheat arcade games. With all of the different mechanisms and goals/incentives of arcade games, it would be interesting to see a range of machines designed to give players the advantage over their master.



Firewatch by Campo Santo

A game that I admire and have played several times over is Firewatch, by the video game studio Campo Santo. It is a story-driven game in which the player, Henry, takes up a summer job as a fire lookout in Wyoming. The player receives instructions and information from his supervisor, Delilah, via radio and together they investigate strange happenings in the park.

With a love for nature and exploration, what I admire the most are the visuals of this game - the atmosphere, the strong and constantly changing color palettes, and the immersive quality this brings. The fact that such an eye-catching game was made using Unity is impressive to me, and that combined with a heavily story-based game is what drew me into it.

The game was made in Unity by a group of 10 people. They utilized many Unity add-ons, including Make Code Now!'s "SECTR Complete".

Due to similar visual styles, I imagine this game was inspired by Journey. I believe (and hope) that this game points to a future with more exploratory narrative-driven games that continue to focus on leading the player through the eyes of a character.


Image source and more development info: 
Game website: http:/
Gameplay trailer:



Project Puppy Interaction - Marisa Lu

For this first looking outwards, I'll be discussing one of my favorite p5 sketches. This sketch was a week long individual project created by the brilliant Marisa Lu for the fall term of 15-104: Computing for Creative Practice.

Although not the most complicated or exploratory work of computational art, it represents a personal milestone for myself. This work made me realize just how delightful even simple digital interactions can be when done well. Among others, this sketch helped foster my love for creative computing, which has come to define my education at CMU as well as the early stages of my career.

The extraordinary nature of this project lies in its simplicity. Although sketch is made up of no more than a few basic shapes and a rudimentary mouse based animation, it is undeniably engaging. Its success lies in a clever understanding of proportion and dimensionality as well as a deft ability to communicate character and personality.



One interactive/computational project that I found to be interesting, appealing, and relevant to my interests is this: by Eran Hilleli.

It's a 3D animation program that you interact with using a MIDI controller. The base code is credited to the original creator, Keijiro Takahashi who made this:

Both are visually appealing, with smooth and interesting animations and populated with shapes, lights, and sounds that work well together to create a cohesive experience. I believe that both people made these projects by themselves, and I'm not sure how long it took either of them.

I love what Hilleli did with the source code by connecting it to character animation. Although the end result is slightly unsettling, I think it's a playful interactive project that has a lot of potential to be made into cool things in the future. We see how there are so many options in using the MIDI board to control and blend different visual and audio effects, and relating to my personal interests, I think it's possible to use this tech to make very dynamic and interesting stories. Perhaps stories that change and grow in real time, in response to audience reactions.