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04 Experience (Lonely in the crowd)

Concept Experience

Download PDF Presentation here (17.1MB)


The goal is to boost communication between strangers in urban space, an installation in public space that introduces strangers to each other in a playful and aesthetically appealing way. The installation is unobtrusive and doesn’t demand a high level of attention. It gives the opportunity to step out of ones daily routine and think about the surrounding people for a moment. It gives the people the experience of having something in common and therefor makes it easier to start to talk.

Setting / Environment

The installation takes place in several spots in the city simultaneously. It appears in different scales at places where there usually are a lot of people that are strangers to each other. This can be the market, the train station, a public park or similar. It blends with the urban environment and is only visible if people are present. There is no programmed interaction between the different spots, each an every installation is independent and only differentiates by its scale. But the multiple spots will give the project a recognition value though-out the city.


The installation consist of a display, a depth-camera observing the scenery and a computer doing all the calculating work. Ideally the display would be completely invisible when not in use, but since there is no such technique yet that blends with the environment I need to work with some sort of projection onto the wall.

The Story

When walking-by the project starts to initiate a particle swarm at your position on the screen. This swarm represents you but also is your personal motivator to interact with other swarms. It will follow you around but still is independent. Furthermore the swarm will continue growing as you stand there, until he covers your full silhouette. Just like children, the swarm doesn’t know about the barriers of getting in contact with someone else, it is curious and as soon as he spots an other swarm (representing a person) he will start to connect with it. To start or intensify this procedure the user needs to close the distance to a strangers swarm. These connection are visualized and will create permanent patterns on the wall. Each interaction leaves a mark and will remember the user of what he did. And if the users don’t feel comfortable with this connection they can just increase the distance and break the links, or walk completely walk away.


User interactions

Detailed information about the single user interactions with the projection-installation and the animations developed for the process.

New user enters installation

If a new user enters the installation a swarm will evolve at his eye-level. The swarm will slowly continue growing until he roughly fills the users silhouette. As closer the user is to the screen, the more important the swarm will be on the screen. Swarms of users in the back will be barely visible and as they come closer the saturation will increase. Animation: appear animation permanent lively animation

User moves around

While the user is inside the installation field his swarm will follow him around in all axis. While the x and y-axis only changes the swarms position the z-axis will change the visibility and size of it. The swarm will always adjust in a natural way to the current silhouette of the user. Animation: natural movement of the particles (delay) movement leaves temporary patterns on the wall

User leaves installation

Basically the swarm disappears when leaving the installation, and the growing progress of the swarm will be lost completely. But for a short period of time the user has the possibility to come back and re-use he’s swarm. This is for preventing the user from leaving the installation by mistake. Animation: gather and wait at the position where the user left the installation disappear animation

Swarm interactions

Detailed interaction models between two or multiple swarms, each representing a user taking part in the installation.

Show interest for another swarm

As soon as a swarm is close enough to another it will start to visualize interest in it by facing towards the neighbour swarm and moving in a more turbulent way to visualizing it’s curiosity. The swarms need to exceed a certain threshold, and have a similar level on the z-axis in order to be able to see each other. This forced the users to physically interact on the same level. Animations: facing the target swarm moving in a more turbulent way (curiosity, excitement)

Connect to another swarm

If the users continue to close the distance to each other, particles will start to leave their original swarm and connect with neighbouring particles. Each particle will pick a neighbour and start to move in it’s direction leaving a slight temporary pattern. As soon as they reach each other, they will create a permanent pattern on the wall. The procedure can be canceled by simply increase the distance again. Pattern already made will stay, but particles still moving into the direction of the neighbour will return to their origin. Animations: movement to partner particle from neighbouring swarm animating a permanent pattern as a result of two particles

Swarm connected completely

The particles that are lost through connection will not be replaced by new ones, therefor the swarm will get smaller and finally disappear. The user has to leave the installation to be able to grow a new one. Everything comes to an end.