Final Project: Virtual Visual Cortex

Title: Virtual Visual Cortex

Artist: Rodolfo Antonio Salido Benítez (A10969987)


TA: Stephanie Sherman

Completion Date: March 17, 2015

Place of Creation: Photoshop, Matlab, Illustrator. (image processing)

Style: Diagram

Technique: Complex image processing and graphic design.

Material: Input photograph. Original file


Final Project Compressed

My project consists of a visual representation of  the information integration process of visual input in humans as modeled by computers. I presented this process as a multi staged process that intends to extract data in specific modalities from the input image. I originally intended to create a diagram explaining the biological integration mechanisms behind our vision. However, after many hours of research, I found that understanding of the information integration processes within our brain is very limited. I searched for methods to develop  visual representations of the different visual integration pathways with very limited success. Thus, I chose 2 of the pathways that I thought could generate an appealing visual representation: the Gabor filter model for Cortical Simple Cells visual information integration (which effectively explains center-surround antagonism in Retinal Ganglion Cells and Orientation Tuning in Simple Cells) and a simplified color discrepancy model (which represents the sensitivity of different cones in our retina to different wavelengths of light – colors-).

The visual representations were generated by different computational algorithms in MatLab. The input image was first “Gabor filtered” under parameters that selected for an effective edge identification (relative to the image resolution) and different edge orientations (0º, 30º, 60º, 90º, 120º, 150º). This process closely resembles biological mechanisms (prefered orientation in simple cells studies by David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel). The output images [(A) in the diagram] were then filtered by non-maxima suppression and “added” on top of each other to generate an “edge detection” image. The simplified color perception visualization was generated by softening the original image with Gaussian blur. The purpose of this was to decrease contrast in the image generated by fluctuating light intensity (darks against lights) as these image characteristics are not part of color perception. The blurred image was then colored filtered through 3 modalities: green, red, and blue. This colors correspond to the different peak absorption wavelengths of opsins expressed in retinal cones (“color receptors”). This model is a simplified color perception model because it ignores color opponency mechanisms (mechanisms that detect color contrast when both colors have the same light intensity). The two images in the color perception visualization [(B) in the diagram] correspond to a gray scale visualization of color content (Red, Green, and Blue) within the image and a color visualization of the 3 different color channels. The final image [(C) in the diagram] is a visualization of the computational model of human visual perception used in this project. It is a result of an “addition” of the six different orientation channels and the 3 different color channels.

The design of the diagram intended to make good use of space. However, after further analysing it, I realized that the hierarchical order it was presented didn’t closely resemble human visual integration (orientation tuning involves “higher order” neurons while the simplified color perception involves “lower order” receptors and neurons). I wanted it to resemble a textbook diagram because my initial intention was to provide an effective visual aid for the understanding of Orientation Tuning ( I disliked diagram used in my neuroscience textbook ). The complexity of my “idealized” diagram was far outside my reach as of now (it involved a decent amount of computational image processing knowledge) yet I’m very pleased with the diagram of Orientation Tuning I developed. I opted for a diagram with “depth” in an effort to effectively include several different visual integration “steps”.

My original intention for this project changed drastically. At first, I wanted to construct an image that closely resembled reality based of biologically inspired computational analysis of image features. I wanted to “piece together” a photo from different characteristics individually mathematically extracted from an input image. However, after days of research, I encountered various limitations. Thus, I  shifted my focus from trying to emulate human vision to trying to bring attention to “computational vision”. Through this “new” project I wanted to bring attention to several different issues:

Computers have very limited image processing capabilities in comparison to humans, however, advances in computational models for visual integration actively fuel breakthroughs in neuroscience. The limited image processing capabilities is only one example of many different tasks that computers fail on in comparison to humans. This highlights the different capabilities of humans and computers. This should encourage thought concerning the social fear of machines completely replacing humans in ordinary life.

The main purpose of the “final” image in my diagram was to provide an “idea” of how computers can process visual information. This image shows how machines can process the world that surrounds them differently than we do. Object, site, and face recognition processes differ greatly from humans to computers. This demonstrates how differently we integrate and communicate with our environment in comparison to machines.

Finally, my goal of creating a better visual teaching aid demonstrates how heavily we rely on visual input not only to understand our physical surrounding but even to try and comprehend abstract ideas. This realization reinforces the idea of “Visualism” brought forth by Johannes Fabian.



Final – Everyday Rhythm

Title – Everyday Rhythm

Artist – Chad Goss

Medium – Microphones, Ableton Audio Editing Software

Location – Computer

Everyday Rhythm

My final is a further venture into using a recorded conversation in a musical piece. In my midterm I recorded four people talking, placed audio effects on the files, and essentially let the conversation make the piece, which was titled Everyday Harmony. With the midterm I was interested in a normal conversation being beautiful, musical, and harmonious. I used audio effects to embellish this notion. However, with my final piece I wanted to go a step farther and make something a little more musical and much more rhythmic. I accomplished this by picking out a section of the previously recorded conversation, at random, and chopped that section into a bunch of smaller pieces. I then placed those smaller pieces in software with which I could use to trigger each individual sound bite at my discretion. The point was to be able to used the conversation the same way one would play a piano or any other tonal instrument. The sound files had no special tonal or rhythmic characteristics; I merely played them to my liking then recorded each phrase. The rhythmic parts of this piece have no special audio effects on them besides being chopped up and played with a keyboard. The tonal aspects do have effects which add harmonics and tones to each sound which make them musical.

The final product is similar to any other type of song that I would create with traditional drums and/or synthesizers. What I really love is that this feels a bit more organic and the song came together more naturally because I was using sounds that I am not used to, so each sound was new and interesting and didn’t suffer the usually rigorous auditioning and refining that my other music most often goes through. I was able to record a phrase, loop it, and layer other phrases on top or start and stop loops as I felt fit for the piece.

Fractal of Things




IMG_1PineappleFish Skin

Title: Fractal of Things

Artist: Xi Wang 

Completion Date: March 17, 2015

Place of Creation: home

Style, genre: sculptures made from thumbtacks, computer images created using photoshop

Technique: physical arrangements of the object, computer image processing

Material: foam cone, thumbtacks

Link to documentation of piece:

Descriptive paragraph:

Fractal of Things is an experimentation with natural fractal structures. It went beyond the two-dimensional fractal images, and really engaged in the making of physical objects that had embraced a fractal configuration. My intention was to raise people’s awareness of the nature’s underlying rule,  as well as the appreciation towards the beauty of these great creations.

The reason I had always been a huge fan of fractals was that it revealed the way how nature worked — maintaining the extremely complex system with the simplest rule. While getting to see more and more images, I started to go back to the fundamental patterns and realize the beauty of the most basic natural structures that could be so easily seen, and as well overlooked. During the process of collecting different patterns, I realized that many of the organisms shared similar, or even the same form. Combining the two, we could see that nature not only reused the same rules to create the patterns, but also reused the patterns to create different organisms. In order to incorporate this concept, I decided to first make a model for the structure, and then map the patterns of two seemingly unrelated organisms on top of it to demonstrate the relationships.

In the beginning, I had three patterns in mind: branching, spiral, and overlapping. I wanted the model to look as independent as possible so that audiences could simply enjoy the beauty of the structure before moving on to further associations. The first material came to my mind was metal, cold and clean. After examine the media that are most accessible, I decided to go with the overlapping system using the thumbtacks.

The whole building process was both exciting and exhausting. In the beginning, I was hoping to build a hollow structure that could stand on its own. Yet in fact I had a lot of problems while fixing the thumbtacks. In the end, I had to give up this plan after 5 hours of continuous trying. The next day, I decided to just build the whole thing on top the foam cone which I initially used as a temporary support. Although, the thumbtacks still kept on falling along the way, luckily I was able to continue building by taking the advantages of the overlapping system (having one thumbtack pressing against two). Moving on to the next stage, the computer image processing also turned out to be much more time-consuming than I anticipated. Especially with the pineapple pattern, in order to make the image look as realistic as possible, I manually arranged the fan-shaped sectors one by one to ensure the overall images has the correct color gradient of a real pineapple.

With all the above experience, the projects really consist of three parts — the metallic  sculpture, the computer images, and the process of making. Besides the visual impact of the first two, it was the third part that had really helped me understand how magnificent the nature was. The standardized machine couldn’t produce thumbtacks that were same. No matter how good I was on the paper, I couldn’t work out a straight line on a solid. The difference between the thumbtacks and the deviation of each installation made the proportion inconsistent from the beginning to the end. But all these was not problems for the nature. We see almost those perfectly arranged structure in nature all the time. But we never realized how magnificent it was to create something like them. Thus, it was my goal to help people understand the greatness of nature through my project and my experience.

Hospitals and Art, A Proposal

Most people can agree that going to hospitals and/or to the doctor’s office as a patient is not always fun and can even sometimes lead to traumatic experiences. For example, I don’t know anyone that actually enjoys going to the dentist. But shouldn’t we? Dentists mend our teeth and try to relieve our pain. Is it the smell of dental offices that makes us shake with fear? The feeling of not having control over our bodies and being in a vulnerable position? Is it the lack of a friendly and colorful environment? What can we change in how we see the world of medicine and healthcare to create a friendlier environment for all kinds of patients in different settings?

For my final paper I discussed ways in which we could implement the use of both art and technology to create a friendlier and more comfortable environment for patients, their families and their friends. Ways to do this vary. I talked about how from my experience as being a volunteer at a hospital, music is very therapeutic not only to the patients and their families, but even the people that work at the hospital. Just by having a pianist play classical music throughout the day in a lobby can lighten everyones mood.

I also discussed whether when you are a patient, is knowledge helpful or hurtful? I know some people don’t want to know anything more than they need to, while some want to know everything and then some more. But maybe there is a way to find a compromise that translates the technical information into something a patient would understand and be satisfactory with hearing, but at the same time doesn’t say too much. I discussed creating a machine that will be able to translate all the numbers and data the hooked up monitors get and translate them into a sentence like “You’re okay” or, if the numbers aren’t particularly good, the message will read something along the lines of “Doctors are on their way, stay calm”. Patients would also be able to control whether or not they want to be notified of anything at all by having to press a button that signals they want to hear an update of their “status”.

Another important issue I discussed in my paper is the idea that many people get fulfillment through caring for something or someone else, so why not give patients something to care for during their stay? What if patients were given indoor plants to take care of during their stay that needed to be watered at least once a day. If patients are unable to get out of bed, there can be installed a small maneuverable watering hose that the patient can control from his or her bed and take care of their plants.

When working in medicine and healthcare, it is important to think about the patient as another human being and to consciously put yourself in their shoes to try and find the best way to better their experience and recovery.

– Alice Musher

Week 10: Conceptual Kinetics and its Impact

As the quarter comes to a close, I like to thank everyone who has read my blog posts. It has been a great ten weeks and I hope that you all enjoyed what others have written. I certainly enjoyed this class and learned a lot. But before I say good-bye, I would like to post one more topic that I have a huge interest in, conceptual kinetics.

In the last few decades, as the advancement of technology and information is developing at a rapid pace, artists are slowly beginning to use these technology and information in their own artwork. , many contemporary artists have actively turned to conceptual kinetic. One artist that explain this idea really well is Alan Rath.

Known as one of the first artists to create tapeless digital video in which image sequences were drawn directly from chip memory, Alan Rath was an artist that was interested in the field of electronic art (Wilson 394). Rath’s sculptures would incorporate electronic devices that society uses today such as video screens, speakers, and microprocessors and many of his viewers would critique his work to be humorous, ironic, beautiful, and playful (Wilson 395). Info Glut II is a 50 x 50 x 18 conceptual kinetic sculpture that uses American Sign Language to communicate to the viewers randomized catch phrases. Additionally, the title of the sculpture, date of the work, the artist’s height, weight, and hair color was also presented in this way.


Above is a picture of what Info Glut II looks like. What made Info Glut II an extraordinary and fun sculpture is that it tackles the concerns of society’s usage of technology. Rath identified during the late 20th century that with technology becoming more prevalent in society, human beings are afraid of moving away from the status quo. What I mean by this is that society is used to finding information from libraries and books. But with technology, the world of information is right at one’s hand but people weren’t used to it. Another concern that Rath observed was that society wasn’t utilizing these advanced technology to their advantage in obtaining massive amount of information.

That was in 1997, but Info Glut II said a lot about our change in society. Back then, society was afraid of this new modern form of art and technology but now, we see teenagers and adults being accustom to their technological devices. However, even though we have such power in our hands, we don’t necessarily use it to our full advantage.

This video shows what society has become with the usage of technological devices such as smartphones. There’s no denying that a lot of us use our phones to text, send pictures through instagram, and browse facebook and twitter. Now, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing since we can access social media from anywhere. I’m just reiterating that we can use our phones for better things, such as surf the interweb to learn more information. The power of reading about the news and current events are right in our hands but we choose not to.

And when we are so indulge into our phones and other technologies, we bring more harm than benefits to ourselves and society. Now, to not waver away from the real message, we live in a technological age where information is right at our hands. The challenge is being able to prioritize it and bring out its benefits.

Here’s a video of what can become in the future if we choose to research and investigate more into technology. Surgeons can learn and possibly begin to utilize robotic surgeons, which helps with sanitation during surgeries. These information on creating such technology is out there and we can access them. We can improve on the quality of many lives but it all starts with using technology to its fullest potential in obtaining the information that we want.

This blog ran a bit longer than usual but I saved the best for last. Thank you again for reading and staying updated with our blogs.

~Kevin Trieu-Nguyen


Final Project: Find Your Center

Title: Find Your Center

Artist: Rebecca Fisher

Completion Date: 17 Mar 2015

Place of Creation: artist’s home

Style: conceptual art

Technique: computer process, performance, videography, and photography

Materials: Arduino Uno microprocessor, breadboard, four Sharp IR sensors, hookup wire and lead-free solder, Processing, Macbook Pro, tape, colored paper, and a stool. Adobe Premiere Pro for editing the video documentation.

*there is no audio for my documentation

Description: This project uses four infrared sensors attached to a wall in various configurations ranging from easy to challenging. They are all connected to an Arduino which communicates with the Processing environment. Each sensor is placed on top of a different colored sheet of paper. If a sensor is activated, a circle of the same color will appear on the computer screen. The goal is to balance your body to “find your center” (like in yoga) and activate all four sensors. If the user successfully activates all four, then the screen will display “you found it!” and animate the circles towards the computer screen’s center as long as the bodily position is maintained.

Conceptual Inspiration: This project examines our understanding of and control over our own bodies, our relationship to the objective nature of computing, and the process of activating computing objects. As you watch the documentation that I included, you will see that the participants had to exert careful control over their gestures and their positions in space, oftentimes making micro-adjustments in order to trigger all four sensors. These adjustments included shifting weight, stretching, bending joints, and more. One of the inspirations for this piece, Deborah Forster illustrated that we have routinized control over our bodies and it takes mindfulness to be aware of our posture, gestures, and position in space. Our control over our bodies can be realized and optimized by the Feldenkrais method, as Dr. Forster demonstrated, which incorporates mindfulness into our control of our physical selves. Mindfulness is key to my project because the user must be fully aware of where their limbs are at all times in order to achieve the desired results. The objective nature of computing is also explored because the user must trust that the four sensors actually are gathering accurate information and that the computer is displaying it properly. The participant’s gaze is typically transfixed upon the laptop screen to confirm that the sensors are being activated and the gaze typically only shifted to the sensors when the participant felt that they were not getting an accurate reading. The participant had to look to the sensors to confirm that their own body was properly placed in the sensor’s gaze. As seen in the video, the participants expressed frustration when they were performing a challenging configuration and the sensor was not quickly reading the participant’s attempt at triggering the sensor. We expect computers to perform accurately and objectively and become frustrated when their output is not what we expect. Finally, this project explores activated objects because the body is what activates the changes on the computer screen via triggering the sensors. We are already used to activating computers with our bodies in routine ways such as typing on a keyboard or manipulating a mouse. Like Char Davies, I wanted to change the interaction with technology to include the entire body and to align the gestures with our core ( find your center!). In order to activate the “You found it!” message and accompanying animation, you must use your entire body to communicate with the computer, not just your hands.

Final project – Fractal interpretation of DNA winding structure.

Yinrou Wang, A91424838

VIS 159/ICAN 150 Final, Winter 2015

TA: Stephanie Sherman

Mar. 17, 2015

Title: Fractal interpretation of DNA winding structure.

Artist: Yinrou Wang

Completion Date: March, 17, 2015

Place of Creation: Mesa apartment, desktop computer

Style: Fractal

Genre: 3D Computer Animation

Technique: Computer Process

Material: Digital Fractal Program, Incendia.

Link to documentation of piece:


Descriptive paragraph:

Continuing my previous project topic on DNA unwinding, I decided to tackle the multiple-scale supercoil arrangement structure of compacted DNA while invoking the use of digital fractal art. I was mostly inspired by Ron Eglash’s TED talk on how fractals are everywhere, as well as the 2008 David Borgo video called “Fractal world.” I was especially taken by the beauty of recursive iterations of self-similar features in nature. Since the way DNA strands need to be highly compacted in chromosomes, arranging in coils after coils across multiple scales, I was quite surprised that I haven’t seen a really good fractal representation of it. However, my own trek through the fractal learning curve would soon make me realize just how difficult it is.

Featured image

Figure 1 –  3D molecular representation of DNA and histone structures by Griffiths et al. (

For generating fractals, I tried many popular open source fractal programs. During the last lecture of my VIS 159 course, a former student showed us just how easy it is to create fractals by “Apophysis” so I thought that everything should t so quick and smooth. However, despite generating many stunning random fractal flames after flames, I was not able to get through the rather unintuitive editing interface to create exactly what I wanted. Worse, I couldn’t find much tutorials for customizing your own fractals. The closest I got to something resembling DNA structure was based on parameters published by the user ObsidianFire on DeviantArt (, but I wasn’t very satisfied with it because it wasn’t possible for me to add in the major structural protein complex – histones, to the fractal image. After days of trying, I gave up using that program anymore, and started to try UltraFractal.

Featured image

Figure 2 – DNA fractal based on changes to Obsidianfire’s rendition.


I came about UltraFractal through youtube videos on fractal tutorials. At first I thought it is very easy to use since the interface allows rather direct access to a lot of embellishments that you can see right away. However, upon generating an example output, I noticed watermarks displaying “Evaluation Copy” all over the image, so I had to abandon this platform as well.

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Figure 3 – UltraFractal output watermarks.

Finally, I remembered Alice Kelley that I introduced on my blog in week 8, and she mentioned how she created 3D fractals via Incendia, so I moved on to that next. To my pleasant surprise, there are a lot more documentation and tutorials available for Incendia, and the 3D and animation features built in were really top notch! After a weekend of exploration, I was able to create a supercoil representation complete with the relative positioning of histones with the DNA double strands. The final image/animation is actually still quite rough because I haven’t figured out a way to link the representative DNA strands together across the fractal repeats; however, I am quite happy with at least showing the viewers how DNA strands are coiled around histones (creating the nucleosome complex) and then the superstructure are then coiled around a set of such complex (to create the solenoid), and so on and on till it fill the whole chromosome. I hope you will enjoy my fractal image as well as the short animation clip!

Featured image

Figure 4 – Incendia rendition of DNA supercoil structure. DNA strands (blue/yellow strands) wrapping around histones (red).