Shaw Shadows is an interactive architectural light installation, custom-designed for a 60-foot by 120-foot blank wall adjacent to the Waltha T. Daniel (Shaw) Library in Washington, DC for Art All Night: Nuit Blanche DC in September 2015.
The installation uses robotic lights to display enormous silhouettes of pedestrians in the grassy lot below, as if they were in a huge shadow theater. Marked areas allow children and adults to step in and see their shadow five stories high. They are encouraged to perform, dance, make shadow puppets, and play. The system cycles through multiple display modes, encouraging friends and strangers to interact and transform themselves into performers for the city.
About 27,000 people came to the event; this installation was a centerpiece of the Shaw neighborhood.
Original proposal (PDF). The approach changed a bit from the original idea, which was for a computer-assisted projection. Straight, “analog” shadows proved to be a much better (and simpler!) approach.
The Neighborhood Portal is a wall-sized video screen, installed in a vacant storefront in the Washington DC metropolitan area, that shows a live video of an identical setup in a different neighborhood nearby. It’s a temporary video installation, supported in part by the Washington chapter of the Awesome Foundation and exhibited at the Washington DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities festival Art All Night.
Pedestrians walk by, notice the life-size people on the video screen, and stop when they realize the people on the other side can see them too. There’s no sound. The image is of another niehgborhood in the District, but passersby may not immediately know where. The people on each side look at each other and share a “What is this thing? Can they really see me?” moment. They might smile, laugh, and pantomime to each other, or hold up signs we’ve thoughtfully provided.
The Shaw neighborhood (Northwest DC)
The Congress Heights Neighborhood (Southeast DC)
Behind the scenes: the temporary projector and screen setup
The September 2014 exhibition was a great success and featured in the Washington CityPaper’s coverage of the event.
We’d love to make this a more permanent installation. If you have storefront space or would like to support the project, here’s the project proposal.
I built this custom WordPress theme for Neimand Collaborative, a delightful marketing agency in Washington, DC. It’s built with a responsively designed layout that morphs content, design, and functionality for the appropriate device width, like so:
Joel Sartore is a long-time National Geographic photographer who documents endangered species and places that are threatened. The site build needed to incorporate his 22,000 stock photos, promote his products and speaking engagements, and show his latest work:
Before the Redesign
Joel’s old site was clean and simple, but was tough to update and didn’t offer enough flexibility.
Hiding Watermarks in Plain Sight
Joel needed to integrate 22,000 stock photos of beautiful places and rare species into the site, and watermark them in a way that didn’t look like typical, ugly watermarks or try to disable downloads of the images.
So, in addition to embedding copyright and caption metadata in all the site’s JPEGs, we added a dynamically generated watermark but hid it with CSS. Try it: the photo of terrifying bats on this page looks great, right?
Drag the image to your desktop, or open it in a new window. Voila! You’ll see a helpful watermark that identifies the image ID and strengthens Joel’s copyright of the image.
Earlier this year, I was thrilled to build the front-end for Autietots, which is like Yelp (restaurant and venue reviews), but for parents of autistic kids. The site’s mastermind, Justin Morell, has created a service that lets parents find quiet places, if that’s what their kids need; or loud places, if that works better; or restaurants where the customers won’t care if your kid is hollering. What an incredible thing for stressed-out parents.
Posts are rated in a variety of different ways, both by the editors and by the public.
For the nerds: I built the site entirely in WordPress, using the MyReview plugin as the backbone for the rating system and the Templatic theme as the backbone for the front-end. Both of them needed a lot of customization to come up with the resulting site. Both the Templatic theme and the MyReview plugin are solid foundations, but to my mind, they’re not finished products. There were a bugs in both that needed a lot of ironing out, and Justin wanted some customizations beyond what they could handle. The folks at MyReview were very responsive to questions and bug fixes; the folks at Templatic seemed much less so, and there are lots of reports on the forum boards (hidden, until you pay for a theme) with folks asking for help and getting none.
Even more than that, Justin and project manager John Johnson were a huge pleasure to work with, and the project is helping parents all over the pacific northwest.
Last year at Washington, D.C.’s 17th Street Festival, I set up an exhibit that used facial recognition software to compare visitors to famous republicans.
Photographer John Johnson took a photo of each visitor. The system used Face.com to compare against a set of about 50 prominent republicans. A few seconds later, the lookalike appeared.
The system used an algorithm at Face.com to compare each face. My script grabbed the visitor’s photo, sent it to face.com for analysis, and displayed the results on a monitor a few seconds later. It was a public exhibition, but really just a web page, running full-screen, using MySQL to store the data.
The face.com API returns information about the location of the face in the photo, possible matches against the predetermined dataset, the predicted gender (and confidence level), the predicted amount of smiling or frowning, and whether the person is wearing glasses.
There are other systems for facial recognition and comparison (like Matlab and OpenCV for developers, or Picasa or iPhoto for consumers), but the face.com one made it easy for a PHP coder like me to put this together.
Sometimes it did pretty well:
Sometimes it paid more attention to facial structure than gender:
Sometimes the results were spot-on:
How does it do with drag queens?
Since we had an analysis of a couple hundred visitors, another monitor displayed groupings of those photos, screensaver-style.
Here are the day’s most prominent smilers, as measured by the system:
And the day’s biggest frowners:
The most masculine visitors:
And the most feminine (notice the little boy, top right):