An interview with a creative UDOOer – #unity #oculus #android #robertofazio #modo

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Hi UDOOers,

Roberto Fazio? He has made the first attempt with UDOO + Unity3d, and now is focusing on various experiments with UDOO we were looking forward to share. He’s recently been in Perù with a project regarding also UDOO we invite you to look closely. And finally we managed to reach him for the interview you’re going to read. The #community is the heart of every open-hardware/open-source project, you know, so here’s a piece of it.

UDOO Team: Hi Roberto, it’s been a long time since we met last time! What is your current project about?

Roberto: Hi guys! Recently I’ve been focused on the development of VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) projects for mobile and for ARM embedded solutions like UDOO – thinking about interactive museums, industrial solutions, advertinsing and edutainment (education + entertainment) field.

The Augumented Reality is a technology that lets us expand 3d visual contents in our world through many devices, especially but not only through mobile devices.

The project I am prototyping is named MODO and it will be available for UDOO. The basic idea comes from the extension of the concept of gaming through a UDOO or a mobile device as a support for the experience, in order to sensitize the users (children aged 4+) about the musical harmony. My intent is to change the paradigma of gaming on touchscreen devices: you have no longer to use any touch gesture, instead you have to think at the machine as a mere supervisor, a tutor of the experience which just stands by the user meanwhile the kid interacts with the application.

MODO leads us back to the modal scale of the musical harmony and aims to give us the concept that every note of the modal scale has got a feeling, as like as the 7 forms provided in the app correspond to a note related to musical modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian…)

MODO will be provided with 7 sheets, everyone composed by different materials, cropped so that anyone can build seven 3d forms, each one representing the modal scale.

Juxtaposing one of the forms in front of the screen of the UDOO the object will be visible and 3d-augmented, and it will emit a melody corresponding the assigned modal scale.

This way the kid will be able to interact by moving the physical object and by modulating the frequency and intensity. Superimposing the other objects instead, the kid will be able to create complex harmonies. The interval that a note produces compared to the tonic – in this case the first note recognized by MODO – and its shades of tuning – the microtones – are determinant elements for the musical meaning and the expression of emotions and sentiments. The tutor, that in this case is our app, will only have to give a visual representation to the melody.

The kid will be able to start singing an invented melody, register what is playing or simply delights and amuse for this experience, interiorising the melody.

The aim of MODO is to give back to this kid the sentiment that characterizes the musical mode, which one will be unique for each kid.

UDOO Team: Please, tell us more about how did you come to this. I mean, has it been a blinding flash on the road to Damascus or the outcome of a meticolous meditation? How do you usually come up with a new project Roberto?

Roberto: In this specific case it hasn’t been a coincidence for many causes happened during the last months. I’ve felt really stimulated as soon as I discovered UDOO given that I have three children and I’m very interested in the Edutainment field (Education + Entertainment). With embedded devices like UDOO I think handling different projects is easier due to its versatility, because of high performances, proper size and accessible price.
Moreover there is also the possibility to expand the concept of gaming beyond common sense – beyond shoot’ em ‘up and games withouth any purpose other than entertainment.

I am fascinated by the concept of extending the app with material components, giving the kid physical objects to live a tactile experience with, and through this experience comprehend the themes the kid is interested in.

Besides I am in favor of divulging the knowledge and an education aware of technologies through artistical projects.
I like to consider machines simply as non-sentient beings and I love to program them as I want, withouth great expectations from them.

I reckon that at the cornerstone of each creative and technological development it has to be a vivid inspiration. You have to have an identity and the willingess to express it in the best way. Only after this the idea comes into the world. Withouth any inspiration and suggestions it would be impossible. So, the process is very natural for me: the idea is the expression of my experiences, after which I work on it through technology and art.

UDOO Team: And you? A developer is something more than a coding-Robocop! Who’s the person behind this project? What else have you worked on?

Roberto: I wrote my first line of code on the Commodore 128 at the age of ten. I remember that, without the Net, I was used to going to the news-stand and buying lists of BASIC code to study, just to see the first visualizations of generative art.
I’ve always admired the world of developers but I prefer to be a factotum, so I didn’t manage to examine in depth each aspect of development. Thus, I’m not the classic nerd which maybe you expect 🙂
That is, however, better, otherwise I wouldn’t have been doing what I did. And when I need more expertise I count on the collaboration of my trusted creative coders.
The MODO project is born as an idea of mine; I am responsible of the creative aspect and of the software development. I used Unity3d, and particularly the AR Vuforia Library. StudioLinetti has made the drawings, which are still a work in progress.
Pedro Gennai, my assistant, is designing a UDOO Case for this project.

UDOO Team: So, do you consider yourself more an artist or a developer? And what does your creative research concern?

Roberto: Given that I hate tags to define people, I’m in the middle.
Everything starting with the word “artist” implies responsibilities: your works are your real expression and this means baring yourself in front of your public, and when the public is waiting for something you have to be ready to provide a piece of your art.
As I said before I am also a programmer. I’ve always looked for an equilibrium between these aspects, building by myself my tools – within reason, of course.
Basically I love programming and the process behind the code: when an idea is written on a IDE and finally materializes as an installation, I’m always highly satisfied.
Moreover I work a lot with the space, the light and the video and I believe these forms mixed up together brought me to define myself as an artist which experiments a lot with technologies and art.
Here it is the challenge: to proper manage a multifaceted project, which covers so many fields of competence.
In these last years my artistic research has focused on experimental interactive installations, which explore the commonly elusive side of natural events: solar explosions, earthquakes, space missions, trying to realize visual experiences developed according to specific sensorial paths.
I get really fascinated by this theme, and I care to move the spectator.

UDOO Team: But… why UDOO? Why didn’t you choose Raspberry Pi or another singleboard computer? Is it just because you are an experimentation-addicted or is there something of UDOO that catched your heart?

Roberto: I started my journey in the embedded world with Raspberry Pi. It enthralled me at the beginning, but I frankly thought it was very limiting for great projects. My almost-neighbor (Roberto lives few kilometers from the UDOO lab in Siena) developing a Quad Core mini-PC at an accessible price really stimulated my fantasy, so I decided to give UDOO a try. And you’re nice dudes, so why should I not support you? 🙂
Ah, a breaking news: we are also developing an homemade structured light 3d scanner in Unity3d for the goldsmith field . We would LOVE to make it work on UDOO, so, stay tuned, working on that!

UDOO Team: We received great feedbacks regarding Unity + UDOO. You know, our lab is based in the University of Siena, and just yesterday a student stop me at the cafè, asking me what’s the estimated time for a serious project involving Unity on UDOO on our website. So what? What do I have to answer to this guy?

Roberto: Unity3d is a powerful engine of real time rendering. It provides a set of easy-to-use tools, with fast workflows able to create interactive 3d scenarios and 2d contents. Due to its intuitive and ductile nature it’s one of the most used tools in technological arts and it’s still expanding its user-base! From interactive video-installation for museums to applications in the interaction design and entertainment field – and theather, and projection mapping and so on, the sky is the limit.

The opportunity to work also on Android with UDOO triggered my curiosity so I decided to try some experimental projects.
Actually learning Unity is quite simple: you can prototype in a 3d environment also if you are a beginner.

Given that Unity3d is a tool to develop videogames it requires a very performing machine, especially if it works in real time 3d environment or if you want a realistic shading. And if you don’t demand too much from UDOO you’ll find your own compromise.

UDOO Team: So, you’re not a virgin in the digital signage – augmented reality world.

Roberto: My team and I have already worked in the industrial and advertising field, developing apps that allow you to visualize a product – for example a piece of forniture in different colors.
We have also developed some prototypes for the industrial field to visualize how a turbine works in real time for a famous brand. In the industrial field AR can be useful in many ways. For example, for manuals: imagine a business that delivers a complex product and instead of digital manuals or manuals on paper, the object itself becomes the marker, starting a real time 3d representation about how to use the product. It could works as a supervisor too and alert if you are wrong. This means AR in education it’s disruptive too!

UDOO Team: Well, people have to know this. First time you entered the lab you told us about a project Unity + UDOO + Oculus. O-C-U-L-U-S. I imagine people fainting on the desk right now. But GOSH! There are several problems about it.

Roberto: Sure. The first thing I thought was this 🙂 I was very motivated! Unfortunately, this feeling lasted just for 5 min 🙂
By that time there was no SDK for Android. Than, few months after, a beta version with that SDK was released, but obviously it’s designed for mobile, not for UDOO, given that it would be uncomfortable to wear a UDOO [editor’s note: actually someone gave it a try successfully] with a monitor for obvious reasons of encumbrance.
However, there will be a huge technological evolution in VR, and it will take short time, not long time, to be amazing. So please guys, let’s build a VR UDOO soon!

UDOO Team: By the way, do you share the Zuckerberg vision around Oculus? I mean, do you think we are going to surf the virtual net in a matter of 10 years, watch virtual television and so on?

Roberto: I’ve never been a great fan of VR, not nearly. I bought Oculus Rift driven by curiosity when I was preparing my installation “Natura non nisi parendo vincitur” – an interactive installation which show real time the earthquakes recorded each day on Earth.

Natura non nisi parendo vincitur

Magnitudo data, depth, latitude, longitude are processed by the system and modify the scenario according to the same parameters. At the same time a sensor is connected to two fingers of the user, measuring his excitement and relax. (Arousal feedback with TOI Viper).

monitoring cardiofrequency during a virtual reality experience

But I had to intensify the whole experience from a perceptive point of view. I needed to make the spectator able to totally immerse in a completely different world. Like during a earthquake, you know, where you utterly lose any sensorial and spatial reference. With VR you really have this feeling, and that’s why I chose to integrate VR in my installation. Differently from VR games I want the user to be motionless, withouth any possibility of interaction with anything at all, nor joypad neither anything else. A passive alienation controlled by my installation.
By the way, I don’t believe VR will enter our houses, rather I find it interesting like a solution to visualize immersive contents. Industrial applications however are really something we have to consider: VR is expanding in this field and more and more enterprises and industries rely on VR experts for realistic, immersive solutions.

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