By Urico Fujii and Ann Poochareon

Project Appearance

ITP Winter Show 2003
December 2003, New York University
Tisch School of the Arts, New York
http://itp.nyu.edu

5th Annual Spiral Independent Creator Festival
May 2004, Spiral Hall, Tokyo
http://spiral.co.jp

Ubicomp 2004
September 2004, Nottingham, England
Ubiquitous Computing Conference 2004
http://ubicomp.org/ubicomp2004/

 
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overview

KU: iyashikei-net is an interactive networked installation that allows people to communicate through the interface of tears, a physical output of human emotional expression that has been overlooked, and never been made exchangeable with the current communication devices.

Why communicate with tears? Tears are output of high state of human emotion. When a person is extremely emotional, many times he/she cannot speak, write, nor sing. In such cases, tears are the only source of his/her expression. Tears are silent, and ephemeral. However, every teardrop is unique and expressive as in their texture, sound, quantity, speed of stream, and saltiness. Unfortunately, when people communicate over the network, these physical characteristics of teardrops are not communicated. Tears are not seen, nor felt by the person that the crying person is trying to reach over the network, in other words, false communication.

The goal of the project is to make transportation of tears in networked communication possible, in order to remind the humanity that subtle physical output of human expression such as tears are essential key to communication, which results in better understanding of one another.

The installation consists of 2 sides that communicate to each other over the Internet. Each side is designed to be placed at different locations anywhere on the earth where there is Internet connection. On Side A, Tear Well is placed, where sad person can express his/her sadness by pumping the traditional water pump. The water that is pumped represents his/her tears. Then the tears are sent over to Side B over the Internet, where there are teardrop sculptures called KU that act as networked surrogates.

As soon as Side B receives crying signal from Side A, KUs start to cry. The tears KUs shed represent the tears of the sad person on Side A. When a viewer on Side B wipes KUs’ tears, KUs stop crying. At the same time comforting response is send to the sad person on side A to cheer him up.

The idea behind this project concerns the human’s increasing inability to understand and appreciate the subtle but essential emotional expressions in the world of digital communications. While various cellular and networked devices allow us to connect to each other instantly, and exchange so much information, from text, audio to video, we seem to overlook the importance of understanding andcommunicating the subtle expressions that can’t be digitally translated such as the tears, the touch of skin, and warmth from a hug. KU: iyashikei-net attempts to bring back such subtle physical expressions that is missing in networked communications.

design concept


The human desire to communicate has played an important part in the technological advancement of modern societies. From smoke signals, pigeon carriers, to telephones, the Internet, and nowadays with abundance of wireless communication methods, our world seems increasingly smaller as we become more and more connected to other human beings by various means. As new technology progresses, building upon the old methods and using new electronic gadgets, communication becomes increasingly depended on written languages and diminishing are the non-text body gestures and emotional language.

The delicacy of hearing or feeling someone cry, the smudged ink in the letter because of a tear drop, or the broken voice over the telephones, for example, get lost in the world of digital communication. Representing an act of crying becomes increasingly difficult over instant messaging. Likewise, receiving a comforting hug is practically impossible over the telephone, fax, or email.

Feeling the void in this personal aspect of telecommunication technologies, we created an interactive installation that lets users transport tears of sadness and receives comfort response in return. Carefully avoiding the usage of machine to completely replace human being, this installation is an abstract representation of the minute human element that brings forth emotional reaction from the viewer in order to fully communicate the language of crying and comfort.

As an act of successful communication requires human beings paying equal attention, the system requires two persons in order to function its intended objective.
illustrations >>