go to HorizonZero HorizonZero 03 vertical line layout graphic franšais >  

printer friendly version of article  >

angles of incidence (works): n-cha(n)t
View this article in flash  requires flash 6 >

n-cha(n)t
Background-Computer Voices | Speaking Machines
by HorizonZero editors

David Rokeby's original n-cha(n)t installation consists of seven computers designed to engage in conversations with gallery visitors -- and each other. Each machine has a screen display, a microphone with voice recognition software, and is linked to the other machines through a network. On each computer screen a human ear is depicted in a variable state of "listening". As Rokeby explains in his artist's statement, "The ears show the state of receptivity of each system. When the system is ready to listen, a listening ear is shown on the screen. If the system hears a sound, it cups its ear to concentrate. When 'thinking', a finger is pressed into the ear. If the system feels overstimulated, it covers its ear with a hand to indicate its unwillingness to listen."

n-cha(n)t is essentially a community of machines equipped with a system that Rokeby developed for an earlier installation called The Giver of Names. In that installation, a camera observes random physical objects placed on a pedestal. A computer then analyzes the image it sees (noting variables like shape, size, colour and texture), and then attempts to describe the object through sentences which, though composed in grammatically-correct English or French, usually end up sounding like surreal alien poetry.

The Giver of Names (literally a machine that gives objects names) can also be programmed to respond in a similar way to words typed on a keyboard or spoken into a microphone. The system "listens" to the input words, associates these with other words it "knows", and then responds with a stream of language wherein the recent stimuli form the dominant themes.

In the n-cha(n)t version of this system, each computer listens and responds to words spoken by gallery visitors. But the machines are also designed to speak through a network to each other. When a machine receives input from a human voice, it communicates that input to other machines, influencing their "states of mind", associations, and gravitating toward similar themes until they finally wind up chanting a phrase in unison. David Rokeby's n-cha(n)t was originally commissioned by The Banff Centre for the Arts for the exhibition Computer Voices / Speaking Machines (2001) at the Walter Philips Gallery. The installation subsequently won the prestigious Golden Nica for Interactive Art at Austria's Prix Ars Electronica 2002 festival.

back to top back to top  

 

Valid XHTML 1.0!
Valid CSS!