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Project Work
Jan 10th, 2016 by Red Lion

Good to know that I wasn’t the only one who struggled with the project for HSS8120…sometimes an open assignment is even more difficult than being told to do this and that…I think all designers and artists have had the feeling that thinking takes 70% of your time doing your work while making only takes 30%.

Anyway I’ve finally finished my little game and I am pretty satisfied with it although it might not be really cool…actually I’m a pretty conservative person and I’m not quite into challenging art and design conventions, but I just want my audience to think that my stuff is fun and interesting rather than stunning and bizarre…

Ok, back to the project. Before introducing it I would like to tell everyone how this idea finally came out. The assignment requirements asked us to relate our project to one of the several topics we discussed during the classes, and I decided to choose the topic about “mapping”. Here, the “mapping” did not just refer to cartography, but how people themselves “map” the world around them. My original idea was to create an “age-controller” that shows different images of a scene seen by people in different ages. For example, if the audience chose to be a kid, he would see the cars on the road as transformer robots, and if the audience chose to be old, he would see the world blurry due to eyesight problems. But this idea rose the problem of stereotyping. How would I know that all kids in this world see cars as transformers? Every kid has their own world.

2016-1-10 16-12-26

So after receiving feedback I decided to simply change the topic to stereotyping. In fact during my preparations for the original idea I actually found many examples of stereotypical mapping. Then I came up with the second idea: student stereotyping. I wanted to shoot videos of people walking in front of their schools and turn them into stereotypical images of their professions according to the school they were walking in front of. For example I would put images of crazy artists onto people who walked by the School of Arts. But Tom said that shooting strangers in a private area (e.g in a uni) was illegal in the UK. And another problem was that not so many people actually walked around the campus during the Christmas break. Tom said I could use sources from the web, but I didn’t like doing that. Finally I came up with the idea that I could ask my friends in China to shoot videos of Chinese students!

I asked a medicine student to shoot his school, and another remote technology student to shoot his school. I loaded the video into Processing and wished to detect the walking students. But the OpenCV library’s body detection was horrible, and made lots of mistakes, like, detecting a pillar to be a human body. Background subtraction only worked for very still cameras, because my friends were holding their cameras in their hands and couldn’t avoid shaking so the background subtraction wouldn’t work either.

bad1

So I decided to give up this idea and try think of other ways to reflect student stereotyping. While fiddling with OpenCV I found that face detection was much more accurate than body detection, so I decided to work on faces. I was sure that I could use different faces to show student stereotypes as well. And that was the idea for my final work that came out in the end.

The game is called Guess The Profession. This is a small interactive game made by the software Processing. It is a very simple programme: a 320px×240px image captured from the webcam is shown on the left, and a map of Newcastle University campus is displayed on the right. In the centre of the map is a red cursor, standing for the player’s position in the university. The player can move the cursor by clicking on the map, and the cursor will move to the place he clicked. Depending on the position of the cursor, the image captured from the camera shown on the left changes according to the profession of the students who often appears in that particular place. For example, if you click on the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape on the map, the image on the left will show some symbolic characteristics of an architecture student. Only the light blue buildings on the map have affect on the camera captured image. Face detection technology from the OpenCV library has also been applied to this game, which allows the game to track your face and draw your face with certain sprites. The sprites drawn on the captured image are based on what the Google search thinks about these student majors. I used the image search engine to find pictures which I used as references of the sprites I had drawn. For instance, I would type “architecture student” and see what comes out from it. I would design my sprite by summarising the common characteristics in the pictures that came out. The most interesting part of this game is that it doesn’t have any words on the map. The player can guess which profession is it by examining the image shown on the left. Also it gives the audience a feeling of surprise.

The programming is very easy. It just detects your position on the map, then decide what profession it will be, and then put the sprites onto the webcam captured image. Some professions did not show much facial characteristics when I Googled the images, so I did not draw facial sprites for these, but drew symbolic items these students tend to use, e.g computers and codes for Computer Science students. Here I’ll show a few lines of code from the game.

void detectSchool(){
if(mousePressed){
zbX = mouseX;
zbY = mouseY;
}
imageMode(CENTER);
image(zuobiao,zbX,zbY);
imageMode(CORNER);
if(dist(zbX,zbY,390,35)<25){
major = 1;
if (faces != null) {
for (int i = 0; i < faces.length; i++) {
imageMode(CENTER);
image(medicineFace, faces[i].x+faces[i].width/2, faces[i].y+faces[i].height, faces[i].width*1.5, faces[i].height*3);
imageMode(CORNER);
}
}
}

student-1

I argue that all artists have their intention of creating an artefact, and no artefact came out because of no reason. I know some artists deny this but hey, think of all the memories you have and all the events you have gone through, they must have some slight effect on creating the artefact, and your intention of building this artefact might be to display one of these memories…so what I want to say here is that my project, Guess the Profession, is aimed to criticise student stereotypes. I would love it if a business student clicks on the Business School in the bottom left corner and shouts “No way, we business students are not all like that!” when he sees the image on the left. But I also want the audience have their own choice of understanding this game, I mean, I won’t force them to think that, “Oh, this game is criticising student stereotypes and the Google search engine’s stereotypical view”. I’d rather they play with it themselves and have their own opinions about it. They might just think it’s something fun, rather than something critical. Further arguments about this has been written in my essay for HSS8120 module, so I will not repeat all of them here…

Anyway, click HERE to download this game. The password is “tgfu”. You’ll need to install Processing and the OpenCV library.

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