Sunday, June 1, 2008

Dance Interaction, Gestures, Patents, and Technology: Doug Fox, of Kinetic Interface, poses some good questions...

Doug Fox, of Kinetic Interface, is the author of the blog of the same name, which is part of the GreatDance website.

From looking over Doug's posts, it is clear that he has spent quite a bit of time pondering issues related to dance and technology interaction. According to Doug, Steve Jobs/Apple is working with the Ohad Naharin, a choreographer. He points out that "choreographers are essentially rapid-prototypers who can create the basics of new movement vocabularies in a few hours."

Reflecting on my previous dance training, I think Doug is on to something.

Here are some excerpts from the Kinetic Interface blog:

"The Kinetic Interface blog on Great Dance starts with the premise that by focusing on the body and movement we can better understand, engage with, and contribute to many of the technological and scientific changes that are reshaping our daily lives."

Gesture Patents Point Way to Full-Body Interfaces
"To ask a bit of an improbable question, will dancers be prohibited from certain movement sequences because they are protected by the US Patent and Trademark Office? This is not likely to happen. But what might happen is that the most natural of human gestures and movements may eventually become proprietary instruments of interface designers.

On another front, I would like to create a video contest where dancers were invited to create their own series of gestures and movements that were intended to control new PC and mobile interfaces. I think that dancers would come-up with some highly innovative approaches that had not previously been considered."

Creating Dance for Developers of User Interfaces

"Say, you were creating a dance piece for a geeky audience of software developers. How would you go about creating and structuring a dance so that developers could relate to it as if it were, in some sense, the user interface for a software program?.....
I would find it very interesting to speak with choreographers who have pondered some variation of my questions connecting dance to user interface design. Or who have created dances for non traditional dance audiences."

For related information about interfaces, Doug Fox recommends reading Alex Iskold's article, The Rise of Contextual Interfaces on ReadWriteWeb. Be sure to read the comments to Iskold's article, if you have the time.


I studied dance formally when I was young, and even through my college years at the University of Michigan. (This was a long time ago- Madonna was in one of my classes!)

Despite all of my dance training, I really did not think about the way dance interaction relates to technology until recently, when I came across Doug Fox's Kinetic Interface blog and the Great Dance website. Not long after that, I had the opportunity to see a performance of Exquisite Interaction at the Visualization in the World symposium. The performance was part of the Dance.Draw project, a collaboration between the Dance and Software and Information Systems (HCI) departments at UNC-Charlotte.

(For more information, see a related post on the Interactive Multimedia Technology blog -be sure to follow the links.)[ExquisiteInteraction.jpg]

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Sort-of Related:
  • GestureTek, a company that reportedly developed patents for gestures as early as 1991.
  • Jeroen Arendsen's A Nice Gesture "Stories of gestures and sign language about perception, semiotics, and technology". Jeroen is Ph.D. student and also an interaction designer and usability specialist.
The relationship between dance and technology is not a new thing. For example, Merce Cunningham, a choreographer, and John Cage, a musician, collaborated with R. Buckminster Fuller, known for his engineering advances.
  • Merce Cunningham, a famous choreographer, collaborated with software developers to create the DanceForms choreography software. (Also see the Character Motion website.) "DanceForms 1.0 inspires you to visualize and chronicle dance steps or entire routines in an easy-to-use 3D environment. For choreography, interdisciplinary arts and dance technology applications."
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Merce Cunningham Dance Company
  • PBS American Masters Documentary on Merce Cunningham, and also John Cage, the musician he collaborated with from 1942-1992. Both were connected with R. Buckminster Fuller, the guy who revolutionized the field of engineering.
  • Cycling74 is the software company behind Max/MSP/Jitter and other cool stuff -Cycling74 products are used by musicians, multi-media artists, and dancers. Academic/student discounts are available.

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