Prototype: OmniVision

Prototype: OmniVision is the culmination of a lot of ideas that were going on in my head during my years at grad school. The main concepts revolved around:

  • Data processing and visualization of information.
  • Our society's over obsession with surveillance and security
  • Wearable computing devices that act as cyborgian augmentations to our biological bodies
One can see these themes often reoccurring in some of my previous work. In a way, the conceptual groundwork had already been partially paved, but in other areas and I hadn't finally tied it all together until now. Finally, I was able to draw on these interests and incorporate them into the foundation of what was to become the OmnniVision project.

iSee from the Institute for Applied Autonomy
Cameras cameras everywhere but not anyone to monitor them, and not a high quality recording taking place. I haven't seen clear new footage of a perp from an in-store surveillance camera feed ever. But still we need more, one on every street corner. It's post NineEleven after all and we need to feel safe. You don't like it? Why? What do you have to hide? Big brother quickly has become something we are used to and something we expect. Surveillance cameras are now merely part or the urban landscape. By poking fun at all of it I am hoping to help people wake up and take a look around. Regardless of one's opinion regarding privacy issues, one should at least be aware of what's going on.
"The trouble is, as Jeffery Rosen nicely points out, is that the more such intrusions occur, and are not legally blocked, the lower our expectations become. The law is set up to protect our privacy in proportion to our reasonable expectations - a nasty little circle if ever you saw one. Reduce your expectations, and your rights fallow suit."

-Andy Clark, Natural-Born Cyborgs
Modern society is a society of cyborgs. We are mentally bound to our modern electronic devices. So much so that even without being wired into us, we can't survive without them. Our watches, phones, computers, cars are all augmentations of our biological body. Human beings have found ourselves over reliant on technology yet we always want more, neigh, we NEED more. Why not upgrade your ears, upgrade your heart, upgrade your eyes, etc? Walking is too hard? Get a little cart to drive yourself around. We are utilizing technological advances to become a much stronger, much smarter race. But minus those same advances and we are left much weaker. Thanks to the rapid evolution of technology we as a species are becoming something, dare I say it... Post-human. The question is: Is that our next evolution or our next devolution?
I have created a device. This is a technological breakthrough that people need, a must have in the modern era. We have cameras in our office building. We have cameras at our ATM. We have cameras on every street corner. We have cameras in our home but do we feel secure? No. Media induced paranoia assures us that it, in fact, is not enough. So why not upgrade? It is time for your very own personal surveillance system. This mobile technology acts as a cyborgian augmentation for your old, limited way of seeing. Insects have been seeing Omni for years. Isn't it time we humans tasted some of that sweet pie? The technology is here. Why not upgrade?
The OmniVision project is an ongoing investigation of space and our own perception of that visual data set. The way our brain processes visual information has been proven to be very elastic. Experiments have been done in the past where subjects wearing inverting glasses see the world upside down at first but in a relatively short amount of time begin to see it normally again. If the inverted glasses were then removed from the subject, the world, seen with their naked eyes once again, appeared upside down to them, but after another given about of time they adapted to once again seeing things normally. If a subject went back and forth between regular sight and wearing the glasses often enough, the subject was in fact able to adapt to the switching. There would be no change in the subjects visual perception when the inverted glasses were taken on or off. The world looked right side up either way. If the mind can readily adapt to inverted space, why not multi-directional space?

[Inverted glasses experiments]
Dolezal, Hubert (1982)
Living in a world transformed.
Chicago: Academic Press
Stratton, George M. (1897)
Upright vision and the retinal image.
Psychological Review, 4, 182-187.
Kohler, Ivo (1964)
The formation and transformation of the perceptual world. New York: International University Press

Traditionally when we want to view many things at once, we divide the visual space up into quadrants and give each quadrant a discrete view or we flip from view to view. Take picture in picture or a bank of security camera monitors for example. This sections out the different views in a way that is easy for us to discern but our focus is still in just place at one time. As you can see this is not a true solution to the problem, it is merely an attempt at side stepping it. When all is said and done we are still not really seeing all things at once. If we want to advance your visual comprehension we need to present our brain with a more complicated visual perception.
OmniVision does not divvy up the space into individual and discreet views of the world. Rather, it presents them all at once. Four views of the world are presented to the subject as one visual perception: Forward, Backward, Right and Left. Objects of focus from each view are presented in a layered order based on motion. Background visual information is aloud to be cast aside. When more, comparatively, is happening in a particular view then that view becomes the foremost layer. The resulting visual field creates a new advanced form of sight. The user is thus presented with a multi-tiered perception of visual space and given the opportunity to see their surroundings in all directions simultaneously.
Ideally, given enough time the human brain will adapt to this new perception of visual space. The user thus obtains a superior view of the world and much better idea of what is going on around him or her self. To test my hypothesis, I as well as the other participants have subjected our selves to the ongoing experimentation. I became my own foremost test subject and devised and recorded my own experiments on myself. And the scientific results? Well you're going to have to judge for yourself. The work itself was exhibited as a multifaceted installation, an interactive sculptural software performance piece.