Coexistence - 2001


Coexistence is an interactive art installation - a shared experience between two people in a world that is both real and virtual. 

This work includes innovative approaches to interaction, interface design and mixed reality utilizing see-through head mounted displays and a unique sensory interface that integrates breathing sensors and tactile feedback. 

Coexistence was inspired by an exploration of mobile, wearable technology that integrates mixed reality and sensory interfaces. Portable digital technology, such as cell phones and PDAs, already allow us to engage in the physical world while coexisting in other places. 

But in the near future we will be able to wear glasses that enable us to see more than the world in front of us. These glasses will also serve as mixed reality displays where we can be totally immersed in a virtual environment or view any combination of the physical world mixed with a virtual world. 

In order to simulate these glasses of the future we have built two prototypes that combine a head mounted display (HMD) with a small digital camera and an integrated head tracking device. Wearing the HMD a participant can see the world in front of them through the camera. They can also see 3D computer generated objects that appear to be in the same physical space. 

We have also developed a unique hand-held interface device that combines a breath sensor with a modified force feedback game pad. With your breath you can interact with responsive computer generated forms. 

As the experience begins you first see a cloud of virtual forms obscuring your view of the real world. As you blow into the breath sensor your breath will start to change and blow away the virtual forms. Your breath is visualized as a stream of particles. 

Across from you, your partner will also be blowing away the virtual forms and by working together you will clear away the virtual objects to reveal a view of each other. 

Each time your partner blows into the sensor you can feel his or her breath as vibrations in the hand-held force feedback device. You and your partner can feel each others breath as tactile feedback. You can also hear your breath and that of your partner through the headphones in the head mounted display. 

The breath sensor will only be activated if you blow into it. Light breathing or even loud talking will not activate it. 

At times colorful shapes appear that transform, move and rotate as you blow on them. You and your partner may work together to create an animated play on form. 

Breathing and touching are the ultimate expression of our physicality. Breath and tactile feedback are used as the interface to emphasize the connection of our physical body to mixed reality. This work is also experimenting with forms of non-verbal communication that are sensual and quiet. 

In Coexistence we not only maintain our simultaneous awareness of physical and virtual space but of our own physicality intermingled with virtual life. Breath and tactile sensations connect us to another person while connecting our body to a mixed reality that blends human presence, virtual form and physical space.  

Coexistence was first exhibited in October of 2001 at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea Gallery in Ivrea, Italy. 

Technical Information 

Hardware: Two PC computers (with speed of 1 GHz or more and 3D graphics card); Two Head Mounted Displays with integrated head tracking and attached digital cameras; Two prototype interface devices that each include a breath sensor and modified force feedback game pad. 

Software: Proprietary software for the integration of real-time video and real-time 3D animation; Emergence is a proprietary software system that includes a real-time 3D engine and a behavior scripting language used for artificial life behaviors and scripting of interface devices and interactivity; Maya 3D software. All proprietary software built by Allen's research team. 


Space and Furniture Requirements: The installation requires a lit (but not too bright) space that is approximately 20 ft x 20 ft. It can be as small as 12 ft x 20 ft. if necessary. Two comfortable chairs face each other across the room each has a low table next to it where the head mounted displays and interface devices can be placed. 

Additional Equipment provided by the Exhibitor: Two monitors with small speakers one or two tables, placed so that others can view what is seen on the head mounted displays.


Exhibition History