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When Astrology meets Technology

What happens when you combine an ancient practice with a new one? You create an otherworldly experience.

The objective of the Astro Touch project was to create a touch trigger based art piece to add some interactive visuals to a sound healing (all inclusive) sacred space. 

The setting was the Hydrotechnics festival, where Aaron Jones along with his team, set up a sound healing Tipi which included video and LED art. 

Artist, Inventor and Musician, Aaron Jones had a moment of inspiration at the festival. He decided to expand the video art and include interactivity with an interface for VJ expressions. 

The Astro Touch is inspired by the zodiac and astrology. It uses Electric Paint and the Touch Board to create a VJ interface based on the wheel of time, represented with astrological symbols. 

It also includes a Leap Motion interface to add another layer of mystery to the experience by allowing touch-less interfacing to supplement the touch triggers. 

The major strength of the Touch Board and conductive paint is the ease and accessibility of designing and implementing unique interfaces. This project proved to Aaron the value of having the Touch Board and Electric Paint in his ”on the go” toolbox.

Aaron used white primer/paint acrylic enamel and he painted the zodiac symbols with Electric Paint. To be able to connect to the Touch Board, he cut holes for the wires and painted the wire ends into the holes on the underside of the piece.

He had to paint the electrodes on the surface making sure each one connects to a hole with the wire. He used astrological symbols as presented by Chic and Sandra Cicero in The Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot.

He attached each wire to the electrode pads on the Touch Board. The coloured wires helped him in a repeating pattern to keep track of which wire goes where. 

Aaron programmed the Touch Board using Arduino IDE. He used the HID sketch that comes with the Touch Board (one of the real strengths of going this route as opposed to a generic MPR 121 and/or generic Arduino).

He created the patch to handle the interactive parts. He used Ableton for audio, Resolume for VJing or Isadora for interactive art (especially with Leap Motion controller). He also recommends Max, Pure data or any other patcher you already know. Isadora is the one he highly recommends, especially for experimentation, since they have a fully functional demo, where you can create patches, just not save them. 

The artistic challenge that the Touch Board and Electric Paint helped Aaron solve was creating something that blended nicely with the primitive style space (unlike most commercial interfaces), but added some excitement and interactivity to the visuals. 

He also wanted to create an art piece equally useable as a VJ interface or interactive art installation. Another major challenge of this piece was having no access to stores or materials so he had to create something with what was available on hand.

The Astro Touch succeeded in providing a sense of mystery and excitement by allowing people to directly interact with the video in a unique way. 

Most people who viewed it assumed that Aaron and the team were part of the official (event funded) visuals, rather than an impromptu group that brought their own sound, video projection and light show. The touch-based interface added another layer to the mystical, healing space which blended nicely with our neo-primitive atmosphere. They had to keep the visual effects very subtle so they didn’t interfere with the tranquil atmosphere of the sacred space. 

Many people expressed their enthusiasm about the interactive space and the Astro Touch added to that sense of mystery and fusion of high-tech and low-tech. Technical enough for an EDM fest and organic enough for a healing tipi.

Images & Video: AWL Jones

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