Let’s Review: What’s new? What’s next? UCSD grad students break ground in arts, music

By Will Bowen

The place to go for a glimpse into the future each year is the highly anticipated final presentations of the seniors majoring in UC San Diego’s Interdisciplinary Computing in the Arts & Music (ICAM) program. The three-part presentation series, described by ICAM chief Peter Otto as “Kind of like a fair,” took place June 10-12.

Otto is a professor in the music department, but he also runs a lab at the Qualcomm Institute looking into how sound may be projected to discrete locations. Assisting him with the ICAM program are art professors Brett Stalbaum and Amy Alexander.

Several individuals who’ve attended ICAM each year since its inception said they thought this might have been the best yet, in terms of the quality, thought and effort put into the projects by students.

Coincidentally, this was also the first year monetary awards were given to students — some from the music and art departments and some from an outside company, Com Hear, headed by Randy Granovetter, former chief of Microsoft’s Innovation Division. Com Hear has taken a great interest in bringing the ICAM student projects to the marketplace. “The students really proved themselves to be inventive with adventurous ideas,” said ICAM professor Stalbaum. “And they are a very ethical generation, aware of the dangers of technology, but also committed to the idea that technology can help us. They show a refined sense of community and of social responsibility. They know we need collaboration and consensus if we are to solve the world’s problems.”

ICAM teaching assistant Andrew Allen, who just received his Ph.D. in computer music, described the student work, as “at a high caliber level — these are the future innovators who are going to change our definition of art and how it is presented.”

Professor Alexander said the theme of the projects was, “things that we might lose, like in relationships, and how we see the world because of the growing importance and power of new technology. These students are addressing real world problems and coming up with real world solutions.”

The event began with Timecode, a series of time-based presentations held in the Experimental Theater at the Conrad Prebys Music Center. Next was a gallery show of installation pieces in the Mandeville Annex Art Gallery. The event ended with Best of ICAM — a show of the premier student works — in the Experimental Theater.

The highlight of Timecode was an exquisitely beautiful recording of an a capella song recorded by Leann Hsueh and Krit Kranratanasuit.

The installations in the Mandeville Annex Gallery ran the gamut from fashions to furniture, robotics, a book, plus video games and demonstrations. Jocelyn Mo designed and constructed a pair of high-heeled shoes for her project. Sandy Le framed and lighted three drawings she made that were based on modernized fairy tales she called “Touchy Tales.”

Nasser Navab presented a collection of the letters and drawings by prison inmates who write requesting books from Books for Prisoners, an organization she belongs to. Navab, who is from Iran, said she became sensitized to the fate of prisoners after seeing several friends of her family incarcerated by the government of Iran for distributing literature. Nicole Pham wrote and bound a book on reactive disorders brought about by technology, which she calls “Teckhne Disorders.” One disorder she identified, “Emotional Tekneprostgesis,” occurs when “an individual feels emotional trauma when separated from their device, becoming irritable and angry.”

Quian Cai made a video game about saving people trapped in a mine cave-in, based on the 2010 movie, “Buried.” Kacey Coughlin converted a circular robotic vacuum cleaner into a drawing robot named “Bob Rossbot.”

Joey Ly created a beautiful computer game where the idea is to design a sustainable ecosystem or food chain of primary and secondary producers and consumers. Ly used geometrical objects to represent the producers and consumers, so each step of playing the game creates patterns and designs that are continuously evolving works of geometric art.

Prita Priscilla Hasjim developed an interactive video game where you can overlay people and move them through landscape scenery from real places, such as a live video feed from the UCSD Price Center Plaza.

Doug Rosman built a video projection device called IMIN (a reversal of IMAX) where you sit in a chair with your head inside an overhead square box while video is projected on all four of the inside walls. Rosman amazed everyone with a Spielberg- type natural talent for movie making.

Kyle Koerber installed a series of comic book panels on a computer that the viewer can rearrange in numerous ways to create continuously changing stories. This is an

example of the new electronic literature and art, which you will be able to interact with and change accordingly.

Mike Boulrice designed a cell-phone game about trying to find a parking spot on the UCSD campus, based on his own frustrations with transportation services. Adrian Phillips designed a computer presentation, “Augment Universe,” where one loads real-time video footage and the computer will begin to interact with it using already stored material. Phillips said this technology could be used as a weapon if video of a person is mixed with incriminating surroundings so it looks like the person is doing something wrong.

Perhaps the most unusual and amusing installation was a piece of useless furniture designed and built by Zachary Moore. Called “Reaction Formation,” it could become the next hot novelty item. It looks like an old wooden TV from the 1960s, but it has a personality of its own. Based on sensing what is going on around it, the piece will glow, move up and down, and make all kinds of sounds, noises or commentary. For instance, if people are talking near it, it will rudely begin to snore!

During the Best of ICAM segment, Troy Tomasetto sang a song he wrote accompanying himself by playing a motion-sensor machine where his arm movements controlled the music played.

Marcus D’Camp, interested in how the Internet might “sound,” played music based on Internet traffic. Boris Boryakov showed his “kwilt” program where people can add patches of images to a continuously growing online quilt ( Josh Walters and Mike Taberner screened high- definition videos they made of turtles and seals swimming under water to music.