As part of the technical development of the Shackle System, we’ve looked into different ways of interfacing with the system. Specifically we looked at three aspects.
Presentation of the system to the players
Initially we both were looking at our computer screen to see the newly proposed parts. For Anne this made perfect sense, as she already has her computer screen there for visual feedback regarding her Max and Kyma setup. As I just moved away from looking at the screen, I wanted to find another way to get visual feedback from the system. The first option I considered was building custom hardware with LED lights as feedback. I soon realized this was not going to give me enough information, so I decided to use my iPod Touch. Using the AirDisplay sofware on both my laptop and the iPod, I could extend my computer screen onto the iPod Touch. I then modified the Shackle System window to fit on the iPod Touch screen. The iPod Touch is directly above my controllers, so without staring at it all the time, I can catch new proposals (blinking orange) out of the corner of my eye.
Interaction of the players with the system
An added advantage of using the iPod Touch was the ‘touch’ aspect of the iPod. I can actually hit the ‘cancel’ and ‘next’ button to cancel a proposal or request a next proposal on the iPod itself. So no need to reach for the spacebar on the laptop. I also added a switch pedal to my Arduino sensor interface to be able to cancel/next with my feet. This is also used regulary in Converging Objects workshops and Shackle Affair concerts to enable other players to cancel/next.
Presentation of the system to the audience and other players
We see the Shackle System mostly as a functional tool, enabling us to perform interesting improvisations. In that respect, there’s no need to show the system to the audience during performances. On the other hand, there seems to be a lot of interest of audiences to understand a bit more of the way we communicate. We’ve been going back and forth about this, and haven’t found a good solution yet. During workshop presentations we usually show the system using a video projector, mostly because the participants need to see it, but this would also enable the audience to follow what’s going on. When performing with other players we usually use an extra LCD screen to enable the other player to see the system. Sometimes the audience can also get a glimpse of the system through that screen. That might in the end be the best solution: not putting to much emphasis on the system, but still opening up a bit to the audience’s interest.