A Long Distance Touch with Light

mutsugoto

As a lighting designer, I unfortunately spend a lot of time away from my loving wife.  For example, I’m about to embark on a back-to-back run of shows, and I’ll be gone from her for about five weeks.  That’s a long time – I know a lot of people who love being away from their significant other, but my wife is my best friend, and I miss her after about 48 hours!

I doubt my wife would be into something like this (after all, I am the annoying husband, and time away from me is probably a vacation!), but a trio of people have created an interface for distanced lovers to depart from text messages, emails, and those annoying phone calls before bed that can ruin a night of sleep if they happen to turn to argument.  With a projector/vision system installed into each bedroom of the partners and a ring-type interface device that allows both people to “touch” each other by drawing beams of light onto their bodies via the interface, a couple can experience an interesting intangible experience together.  The computer system tracks the movement of the ring interface, light-painting onto your partner’s body, and giving you a different method to interact – it appears as though it certainly beats the crap out of email.  Meet Mutsugoto:

A bit of information detail about Mutsugoto from the product website – the company is Distance Lab, and the creators are Tomoko Hayashi, Stefan Agamanolis, Matthew Karau:

Mutsugoto is an interactive installation that invites couples to experience an intimate communication over a distance.  Instead of exchanging e-mail or SMS messages using generic interfaces in business-like venues, Mutsugoto allows distant partners to communicate through the language of touch as expressed on the canvas of the human body.  A custom computer vision and projection system allows users to draw on each other’s bodies while lying in bed.  Drawings are transmitted “live” between the two beds, enabling a different kind of synchronous communication that leverages the emotional quality of physical gesture.

Human intimacy is a significant but often neglected part of modern life.  More people now than ever carry on long distance relationships with romantic partners, sometimes for extended periods of time.  However today’s communication systems are impersonal and generic.  E-mail, for example, is often read and written on the same computer and at the same desk that one uses for any other kind of communication.  Phone calls and SMS messages are sent and received between partners on the same devices used for work and business.  Mutsugoto is meant to be installed in the bedrooms of two distant partners.  You lay on your bed and wear a special touch-activated ring visible to a camera mounted above.  A computer vision system tracks the movement of the ring and projects virtual pen strokes on your body.  At the same time these pen strokes are transmitted to and projected on the body of your remote partner.  If you follow your partner’s movements and your strokes cross, the lines will react with each other and reflect your synchrony.  Special bed linens, silk curtains and other aspects of the physical context have been designed to enhance the mood of this romantic communication environment.

A weird and interesting step in the direction of virtual interaction.  Boutique?  Perhaps.  Interesting?  Certainly.