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Krapp’s Last Tape: Software that’s not Krappy

July 19, 2011

image by steven speciale

I am featuring software I use in my class. Without a one-to-one computer program, I could not guarantee that all of my students had equal access to technology. I began searching for open-source and cross-platform software that would equalize the playing field. Over the last two years, I think that some of my class’ strongest projects were created using the free-software ReacTivision.

reacTIVision is an open source, cross-platform computer vision framework for the fast and robust tracking of fiducial markers attached onto physical objects, as well as for multi-touch finger tracking.
ReacTivision website

In other words, my students can turn physical objects into reactive multimedia controllers. ReacTivision can read and track blobs called fiducials. By assigning these blobs to different features of other software via a MIDI or OSC protocol, one can remotely control the features of that software. I will detail how to do this in upcoming posts. For the impatient, visit the ReacTivision website for instructions.

While this technology’s most spectacular applications require high-level programming abilities, with a little ingenuity, I think this software lends itself to creative class projects.

I find that group projects work best when I provide an overarching theme that gives creative space for each student to express their personal views. It also works best when the projects can have the same requirements for each student in the group so that the ultimate success of the project is not totally dependent on the work of the group’s weakest link.

In the above featured works, I gave my classes the challenge of designing reactive music tables where the player intuits the manner of playing. Sounds also had to relate to the objects used. Students, therefore, had to consider the user-interface, the design of the objects, the consequence of moving the objects on the table, and the sound.

Projects not pictured here included album-art fiducials that triggered iconic hooks which could be mixed on the tables and fiducials of face-parts where users mied eyes, noses, mouths, etc… to create different pieces.

I do imagine similar projects working in other curricula as the technology threshold is not too overwhelming. Our current-project, for example, requires analysis and reflection on the play “Krapp’s Last Tape” by Samuel Beckett.

I will provide tutorials and software-specific examples in the coming weeks. I will also detail relevant aspects of my lesson plans.


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