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collective body (2008)

”Collective Body” is a pioneer interactive installation that uses a real-time 3D scanner. Prior to this piece, interactive installations using a 3D scanner with special visual effects in real-time didn’t exist.
This installation visualizes the fact that everything in our world is a collection of miniscule components such as atoms or cells—components that always alter their behavior once they become part of a larger organism. In addition, organisms regularly generate cells that are then exhausted outside their body. This process of metabolism is seen in nature, but rarely visualized in the digital world.
To make this concept come to life in a digital sense, I used a real-time 3D scanner and a special visual effects system that uses the motion of the onlooking audience and links it to a particle system that creates a 3D model. Each particle resembles a building block similar to a cell or atom and, collectively, allows the audience to see and experience the work using their own body. It’s a visual representation that lends itself naturally to user interaction. To achieve these functions, I developed a real-time 3D scanner and real-time special visual system. I believe the work is significant for its expansion of 3D scanner technologies into the fields of art and design.


The pixel is one of the most important concepts for the interactive arts, especially those that use the CCD camera as an input device. Artists create an illusion by adding effects to a sequence of images in real-time, by manipulating and tweaking the pixels. Looking at themselves through this kind of interactive art, the audience experiences the effect as if they are in the virtual or movie world.

Most 3D graphics manipulate polygons to create 3D models. This is extremely different from 2D image processing. The nature of polygons makes it to put effects on 3D models. If we can manipulate a 3D model as a set of pixels, we can distort and tweak the 3D image in almost the same way we can in 2D image processing. Applying this idea to 3D aesthetic effects, we would be able to treat 3D models almost in the same manner as 2D images, and transform them with more freedom.

Collective body is an interactive art-work constituted by a real-time 3D scanning system with visual output. When a viewer is standing in front of the work, it scans the features and shape of his body in real-time. Then it reconstructs the viewer’s body in the 3D world by creating a collection of pixels with real-time effects. We apply the concept of the particle to all pixels that form the 3D model, thus they move dynamically and independently, like small living organisms. When we focus on a single pixel it moves independently, however when we look at the pixels as a collective, they form the human body and reflect the viewer’s movement. In this way, we could propose new aesthetic representations for 3D graphics that is more representative of the world’s actual structure.


Our system requires three IEEE1394 cameras and an Apple Computer PowerMacG5 (dual 2.7MHz). Three cameras are set up on the top, front and side of a viewer. We set up all the cameras 1.4 m to 2.5 m from the center of the viewers. The computer takes 2D images from the three cameras in real-time.

Our technology is based on image-based modeling methods. We remove the background from all images to isolate the features of a viewer. After that, we reconstruct the human body from the three data sets taken by the cameras. We create a 3-dimensional figure by merging these data sets. If all three image data sets’ pixel information is at the same location, our original application places a pixel at the corresponding 3-dimensional position. When our application incorporates all image data sets, we get a 3D model constructed by pixels, which reflects the viewer’s body shape.

There are two interfaces for the user in our art work The first is the three cameras. A viewer watches the 3D model and then reacts to it. He interacts with the model through the 3 cameras. Therefore they function as a contact-free user interface. The second is a computer mouse. A viewer can manipulate the viewpoint and perspective by simply moving the mouse. He can control pan, rotation and distance.

We applied the concept of the particle to all points that form the shape of a viewer’s body these particles follow the random walk and random positioning of the viewer’s steps. We can apply special effects not only to color but also to shapes. The nature of the application changes the figure like an amoeba throughout the viewing. Moreover, the shape of the 3D model reacts to the audience’s movement.
Our application implements two effects versions, gravity and vapor effects.


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