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Golan Levin and Collaborators

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Opto-Isolator

2007 | Golan Levin with Greg Baltus / Standard Robot Company

Opto-Isolator

Opto-Isolator (2007: Golan Levin with Greg Baltus) inverts the condition of spectatorship by exploring the questions: "What if artworks could know how we were looking at them? And, given this knowledge, how might they respond to us?" The sculpture presents a solitary mechatronic blinking eye, at human scale, which responds to the gaze of visitors with a variety of psychosocial eye-contact behaviors that are at once familiar and unnerving. Among other forms of feedback, Opto-Isolator looks its viewer directly in the eye; appears to intently study its viewer's face; looks away coyly if it is stared at for too long; and blinks precisely one second after its visitor blinks.

Acknowledgements
Mechatronic design and fabrication by Greg Baltus of Standard Robot Company, Pittsburgh. Opto-Isolator was developed with support from the Creative Capital Foundation, from the Berkman Faculty Development Fund at Carnegie Mellon University, from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship award program, and from an anonymous Trustee of Carnegie Mellon University. Additional thanks to Frank Broz, Fran Flaherty and Dave Tolliver for their advice and assistance in realizing this project, and to Marius Watz, Grisha Coleman, Alice Lodi and Juliacks for their help in documenting it. Photographs by John Berens; video by David Plakke and Golan Levin.


The videos below show Opto-Isolator installed at Bitforms gallery, NYC, December 2007 (0'46") and at the Direct Digital Festival, Modena, June 2009 (1'36").


Opto-Isolator (2007), Interactive Eye Robot from Golan Levin on Vimeo.


Opto-Isolator I: Interactive Eye Robot from Golan Levin on Vimeo.

The following interview about Opto-Isolator was recorded at the opening of the Decode exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, December 2009:

This video shows a preliminary test of Opto-Isolator II, the second version of the robot:


Exhibition History
Versions of Opto-Isolator have been shown at:

  • Decode: Digital Design Sensations, Victoria & Albert Museum, London. 12/2009 - 4/2010.
  • Golan Levin: New Works, bitforms gallery NYC (solo exhibition), 11/2007 - 1/2008.
  • Pittsburgh Biennial, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh. 5/2008 - 8/2008.
  • Under Surveillance, Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan. 6/2008 - 9/2008.
  • Version Bęta, Centre pour l’Image Contemporaine Saint-Gervais, Geneva. 10/2008 - 12/2008.
  • STRP Festival, Klokgebouw Eindhoven, Netherlands. 4/2009.
  • Pictopia Exhibition, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. 3/2009 - 5/2009.
  • Direct Digital Festival, Modena, Italy. 6/2009.

Keywords
Mechatronic art, robotic art, interactive art, kinetic art, sculpture, eyeball, eye, robot, robotics, gaze, computer vision, machine vision, face detection, eye detection, face tracking, observation, surveillance, oculesics, eye contact, eye gesture, openCV, openFrameworks.


Additional Resources
High-resolution photographs of Opto-Isolator can be found in this Flickr photoset. Videos of Opto-Isolator are also available at YouTube.

Images (click to enlarge)

Opto-Isolator Opto-Isolator Opto-Isolator Opto-Isolator Opto-Isolator

Video
Opto-Isolator, 2007
Opto-Isolator, 2007 (84.18 MB)
[640x480, H.264 .mov, 0'45". Right-click to download or watch on YouTube]
Opto-Isolator I.
Opto-Isolator I. (162.74 MB)
[720x480, H.264 .mov, 1'36''. Right-click to download.]