Working Groups 2019-2020

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.

The following working groups were held during the 2019-2020 Academic year.

2019-2020 Working Groups

Neurogenesis

Students in the Neurogenesis Working Group investigated 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. Students created studied how 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, was 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 led to a subsequent Working Group that created an international BCI game contest and neuroethics panel.

 

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, this group developed two virtual reality projects that explored 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. These projects were accompanied by a workshop at the Ahmanson Lab that presented trends in videogrammetry.

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 integrated new audio algorithms into a usable synthesizer. Students in this Working Group explored various aspects of product development, iterating on solutions for UI, aesthetic, and software engineering principles. In the creation of this synthesizer, students engaged with the role of AI in artistic craft, examining the relationship between musicians and their tools.

 


EMBODY

Students in the EMBODY Working Group built 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 attached 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 activatedservo 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 artistic interpretation of technology inteded to demonstrate 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 explored 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 acted as a salon for students who wish to research and discuss contemporary digital culture. Over the course of the year, meetings featured 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 produced 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.

 


Streaming Lab

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 were 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 accomplished these goals while producing a weekly live streaming show and building out and maintaining a streaming studio at the Ahmanson Lab. This work has resulted in a large USC streaming community on Discord, and has informed the creation of an undergraduate course on the topic.