Every year the Ahmanson Lab supports a cohort of Working Groups. A Call for Proposals is released early in the fall semester.
Each Working Group is comprised of a small team of highly motivated students who work together on an interdisciplinary technology-oriented project over the course of the academic year. Projects, at the center of Working Groups, are conceived, designed, and directed by USC students using resources at the Ahmanson Lab and leveraging staff expertise. In keeping with the mission of the Ahmanson Lab, Working Groups aim to engage with technology critically, asking important questions or examining vital social issues while building out their respective projects.
Working Groups are given access to the Ahmanson Lab space for their work and meetings, to our staff, and to our technology and equipment. Select Working Groups are also given a small budget to purchase additional technology, materials, or resources.
2019-2020 Working Groups
Students in the Neurogenesis Working Group will investigate how brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) can be used to inform generative artwork—as well as how these artworks can simultaneously inform audiences on the intricacies of neural signals processing. In collaboration with Neurable and the USC Bridge Arts & Science Alliance, students will learn to telekinetically control objects in virtual reality, develop new techniques for visualizing brain data and its ongoing analysis, and prototype large-scale interactive artworks using BCIs as an interface. The final outcome of Neurogenesis, will be a suite of intuitive BCI artworks that convert neurotechnology neophytes into neuromancers—both on a technical and experiential level—in record time.
This Working Group is co-sponsored by the USC Bridge Arts & Science Alliance.
From Save the Cypher to Wing Wor: Exploring Videogrammetry, Lidar, and Photogrammetry through Hip Hop Dance and Cultural Heritage
Over the course of the 2019-2020 academic year, we will develop two virtual reality projects that will explore how to photorealistically capture people and places using cutting-edge technologies such as videogrammetry, Lidar, and photogrammetry.
The first project, Save the Cypher, is an interactive VR dance experience, developed in collaboration with faculty at the Kaufman School of Dance, in which the player must save the sacred dance world of Cypher through solving puzzles and interacting with a spirit guide hologram. The second project, Wing Wor, is an interactive VR narrative adventure that will transport audiences to a rural village in Toishan, China where they can engage with the people and place and experience Toishan’s rich historical legacy.
In Fall 2019, we will focus specifically on developing a complete and polished version of Save the Cypher. In Winter and Spring 2020, we will focus on capturing content and integrating that content into a playable prototype of Wing Wor.
This Working Group is co-sponsored by USC Games.
Neural Sound Resynthesis
The development of synthesizer technology has been retrograde, in recent years, building new tools to emulate old analog technology. As a result, this industry has missed key opportunities—specifically, the incorporation of new techniques in machine learning and artificial intelligence.
The Neural Sound Resynthesis Working Group will endeavor to integrate new audio algorithms into a usable synthesizer. Students in this Working Group will explore various aspects of product development, iterating on solutions for UI, aesthetic, and software engineering principles. In the creation of this synthesizer, students will engage with the role of AI in artistic craft, examining the relationship between musicians and their tools.
Students in the EMBODY Working Group will build a device using muscle sensors and Arduino boards with the goal of reimagining the relationship between inner feelings and the outer architecture of the human body.
The device students create will attach sensors to sectors of the body such that muscle tension in each designated area will expand in volume, creating a wide range of dynamic sculptures through muscle movements. Muscle sensors will activate servo motors connected to a skeleton of dynamically connected material which will extend from a two-dimensional resting shape to three-dimensionality. By connecting multiple motors to the structure at different points, a wide range of dynamic sculptures can be achieved with a variety of muscle movements. This will give humans the range of physical emotivity comparable to the visceral ability that certain animals have to express their inner sensations.
With the ability to mutate their physical appearance in accordance with their inner sensations, individuals will be allowed to play with a post-human, post-gender, androgyny and as well as realize abstract facets of our humanity which would otherwise be confined to our individual experience.
The Internet Culture Cafe
The Internet Culture Cafe acts as a salon for students who wish to research and discuss contemporary digital culture. Over the course of the year, meetings will feature guest speakers, presentations of research from members, and in the end, deliverables, in the form of multimedia deconstructions of specific subsects of internet culture.
The Internet Culture Café will produce two iterations of a Digital Renaissance Salon, in which teams showcase their research and findings, covering a broad variety of subcultures and online communities in order to provide a nuanced depiction of the contemporary digital world.
Students in the Augmented L.A. Working Group will create a mobile application that utilizes AR to allow users to interact with the built environment of Los Angeles. Using the L.A. City’s Open Data Repository (via their API), the app will display 3D visualizations of civic data such that users can find information about buildings and/or landmarks.
An additional goal of the Working Group is to demonstrate a novel pipeline for cross-platform development, using modern frameworks to run a single application on both Android and iOS.
Streaming platforms are increasingly places for cultural influence. On Twitch alone, people watched over 10.8 billion hours of streams in 2018.
The purposes of the Streaming Lab Working Group are twofold. First, to demonstrate streaming’s potential as a medium for social engagement. Second, to research and develop streaming technologies and workflows. The Streaming Lab will accomplish these goals while producing a weekly live streaming show and building out and maintaining a streaming studio at the Ahmanson Lab.