Hand from Above from Bren O'Callaghan on Vimeo.

Hand From Above

Producer for Chris O’Shea‘s Hand From Above, which encouraged the public to question their normal routine when they find themselves rushing from one destination to another. Inspired by Land of the Giants and Goliath, we are reminded of mythical stories by mischievously unleashing a giant hand upon an outdoor LED video screen with audio broadcast. What if humans weren’t on top of the food chain?

A joint co-commission between Liverpool City Council and AND: Abandon Normal Devices Festival of New Cinema and Digital Culture, Hand From Above launched upon the the Big Screen Liverpool during September 09 and subsequently embarked upon a UK-wide tour of the BBC / London 2012 Live Sites network. It continues to tour overseas.

Hand from Above was built using openFrameworks & openCV, an application framework designed for creative coding written in C++ and which runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. For this project, the on-screen camera is linked to a computer that runs the software and then outputs to the screen. Unsuspecting pedestrians are  then tickled, stretched, flicked or removed entirely in real-time by a giant deity.

The software picks a person based on their proportions and how apart they are from other people, tracking the blob over time using optical flow. If the giant hand removes, flicks or shrinks a person, first it rubs out that person from the live video using the background reference pixels.

The tracked person is then redrawn over the top in relation to what the hand is doing, i.e. being picked up, or flicked out to the left of the screen. When the hand shrinks a person it redraws them into the video at half scale. If too large a crowd has gathered to watch the hand resorts to tickling people, selecting at random.

Thousands of observers and participants, particularly the elderly, families, children and those of foreign origin were able to engage without the need for specific phone handsets or a more detailed understanding of the technology involved. Fun, immediate and playful, shoppers jostled and whooped to attract the attention of the unknown (actually automated) operator.

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