Cool Toys pics of the day: Autoscopia


Today our Second Life group went on a tour to the doppelgänger
exhibit currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery of
Canberra Australia. The culmination of the exhibit, at least for me,
was the Autoscopia portion. This commissioned work on the theme of
“What is identity?” has portions at the real life gallery in
Australia, on the web, and at the Second Life gallery.

In Second Life, our group teleported into this final section of the
exhibit, landing in this blue angular fog. We walked up a slight
incline to the signage, which gave us a brief description of the
purpose and then asked us to supply a name. I warned the group about
using real names, and so they tried a range of names, part real, part
fiction, part famous people.

When given a name, the exhibit responds. It generates a large number
of colored crystals that float in midair, chiming and resonating. At
the same time, it scans and scrapes web searches and social media
sites for that name, generating a page of snippets selected from
these, and then tweets that a person on the web or an avatar in Second
Life has searched that name, providing a link to the muddle of

The glowing crystals tower several stories tall over the surrounding
sea, each crystal generating sounds that combine to create a surreal
music, a pleasant if slight disconcerting acoustic environment. If you
turn to look upwards, and zoom upward into the tower, you will find
that each crystal makes its own sound that become louder as you come
closer. If you hover your mouse over a single crystal, eventually it
tells you the name that created it. If you click on a crystal, they
pop, like bubbles, and the music from that crystal vanishes.

“Autoscopia’s Second Life portraits are built using data from
internet-based ‘vanity searches’ conducted within the Second Life
installation. Each name creates a unique outcome composed of 27
‘limbs’. Each limb is fed data from websites such as Google, Facebook,
Twitter etc, with colours, geometry and audio affected by variations
in search volume. Data is then re-published via discrete web pages
automatically composed through text and images collected during the
search. The identity created will thereafter be reincorporated into
future search results. Each portrait also ‘Tweets’ its existence on
Twitter, with both the web pages and Tweets looping back into future

The real-world Autoscopia work installed at the National Portrait
Gallery in Canberra is a video portrait of the artists, displayed via
a wall-mounted, flat-screen television, along with a digital still
print (seen above). Three video channels (one per collaborator) are
combined to form a composite of the artists as a (dis)unified whole.”

There is a substantial research article at the website explaining the
math and science behind this, as well as a bit of the psychological


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s