When Kinect-Style Interactivity Was New and Thrilling—and So '90s!

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

Today, we are living the dream of the nineties -- at least when it comes to technology. The virtual realities we imagined are now available in toy stores. Microsoft's $150 Kinect, a depth and motion-sensing camera originally designed for video games, has become a ubiquitous hackable interface for countless developers, musicians, and artists. Long before the Kinect powered musical performances like this, however, Vincent John Vincent and the 20th Century Kid performed this amazing demonstration of pioneering gesture-controlled video technology, below. 

As Weird Al explains in his introduction, this show "demonstrates the vast potential of digital virtual reality to bring together music, images, technology, communications -- not to mimic machines but to artfully extend our visual comprehension of the world." In 1986, Vincent, a Canadian multimedia performance artist and entrepreneur, and his company GestureTek developed gesture-recognition software that became the basis for decades of innovation in computer vision and interactive media. 

As Vincent explained in a comment on "Why the Musical Instrument of the Future Might Be the 3D Camera," his system worked off a standard 2D video camera. He performed in front of a blue screen and was then chroma keyed into the virtual world via an Amiga computer. The virtual landscape? Powered by LaserDisc. The result is a surreal jaunt through a psychedelic mix of mid-nineties computer graphics. Enjoy the show!

For more work by Vincent John Vincent, visit http://www.vjvincent.com/.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/when-kinect-style-interactivity-was-new-and-thrilling-and-so-90s/256454/