Institution / client name: Interval Research;
Electric Carnival
Project name: Lollapalooza
Date: Spring 1994
Role(s): Producer, interactivity design, technical solution design, technical direction, programming

This project was the subject of an article I wrote for DV Magazine in 1995.

Screen capture showing partial pseudo-morph between man and older woman.

In 1994 the Lolapalooza music festival included a tent full of interactive computer based experiences called the Electric Carnival sponsored by Interval Research. We were to design several experiences focused on visitor's faces. The goal was to build empathy in the viewer by allowing them to see their own face merged with faces of others.

One of the experiences, HumanAlchemy, was presented as being a morph problem. The client wanted an experience in which a person would take his or her own picture, and then experience that face morphing into another face from a collection of faces, including the previous visitors to the exhibit.

The main impediments of schedule and budget dictated that building a full 'morph' engine was completely impractical. A proper Morph involves identifying several common geometric points on a source and target image, moving the geometries of 1 to the other, and cross-fading between the two images as you do it.

My solution to the problem involved the definition of a 'normalized' face as being a given distance between the eyes horizontally, and another given distance vertically between both eyes and the mouth. While I did not have capability of performing complex geometric transformations, I could shrink or stretch an image in both the vertical and horizontal directions.

A visitor would come up to the kiosk and have the opportunity to take his or her picture. She would then be asked, using a software pointer, to identify the left eye, right eye, and mouth on the image. The software would then shrink or stretch the image to coax it into a 'normalized' configuration.

The illusion of the morph was created by overlaying two different normalized faces, registered with each other so that the eyes and mouth were on top of each other, and varying the transparency of the top image yielding a fade between the two images.

Further, this device of using a 'normalized' face became the common thread between all of the exhibits we created for the Electric Carnival. The results depended on the level of accuracy a user applied when identifying the eyes and mouth. When it was right, the effect was quite dramatic.

phone: 617-697-7527 — e-mail: — ©2007, 2008, 2009 Ben Dubrovsky