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Sense Shifting

Exhibition/Presentation: Interactive Media Participatory Performance @ FoAM (2014)­ Brussels, Belgium.

Summary of the work

Sense Shifting was an art experiment that explored the possibilities of non-verbal communication mediated by an interactive device: an Emotiorama. The final artwork was an intimate experience in which the participants, in pairs, have had the opportunity to interact with both the machine and each other, playing in a continuous balance in which states of attention and relaxed contemplation alternate. It was a fusion of disciplines to celebrate empathy and try to understand what in the end, connects us.


Sense Shifting was created thanks to the support of the European Initiative ICT & ART Connect (Sigma Orionis). The experiment was one of the seventeen selected projects and the only one from Southern Europe. This initiative allowed practitioners in technology and the Arts to meet, collaborate and discuss the future of such collaborations.

hands sense shifting madinteraction emotiorama biofeedback biosensor interactive art installation

The art experiment

Sense Shifting is an interdisciplinary interactive art experiment inspired by research on affective computing. It started as a process of exploration between participatory art, natural interface design and perception. People communicate their emotions in order to be understood. Emotions lead physiological changes, emotional stimulus can be an event, a gesture or a particular tone of voice. Assuming that empathy is the process of understanding and responding to the inferred feelings and emotions of others, then show emotions publicly making visible the bio-signals that people produce during their interactions can transform the experience of such social situation.

The Emotiorama

The experiment led to the creation of an Emotiorama: an interactive machine that mediates the interaction between two people by making their emotional state visible. It has the physical appearance of a little zen garden. The sand surface captures the hands’ movement generating a real-time synthesis of a sound of warm summer wind. While the black stones work as biosensor leads that record variations in skin conductance in both participants and directly related to their arousal state. Then the machine transforms such bio-data into sound and light which can be perceived and interpreted by both participants. The Emotiorama, through the use of biosensors makes explicit a biological information, otherwise invisible, transforming it into a sound and visual feedback. 

An artistic experiment with the aim of:

Questioning affective computing technologies by offering an experience in which the public can experience what it means to be able to perceive the biosignals related to the change of emotions.

Investigating non-conventional channels for non-verbal communication by sensory augmentation, which permit to display in real-time emotions-related biosignals through lights and sound.

Designing a speculative prototype of an advanced interface in which technology disappears, presenting itself as natural and organic.

Photo: final circuits.

Photo: testing the custom-made biosensor.

Impact of the artwork

The projects  have been displayed during the exhibition curated by FET-ART partner Black Cube Collective (Edinburg) and hosted by FoAM, an art centre in Brussels. An event at European Commission building concluded FET-ART. The event was opened by Anne Glover who emphasised the strong links of science, technology and the Arts. The project was presented during the session, together with the other artists participating in the ART & ICT Connect, to convince the Commission to invest more in the collaboration between art, science and new technologies. 


Gianmarco Zaccaria

Role: Interactive Media Artist / Maker

Joana Mollà

Role: Performer


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