How I let a physicist paint me at CES – CNET
Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.
“You’ve got two choices,” said the man in the burnt brown suit. “I can do you something conservative. Or we could go for something more interesting.”
He explained that some people were afraid of what art might do to them.
I was not afraid. Let art do its worst (or best).
But wait, what was he actually going to do? All he seemed to have was a couple of plastic sticks and a large canvas. That’s all he needed to paint a portrait?
The man in the burnt brown suit, who turned out to be world-renowned digital artist Jeremy Sutton, told me he’d gone digital more than 25 years ago. His work is extraordinarily evocative.
This I now know, but wandering through the halls of CES in Las Vegas, I was blundering along as usual. I accepted the offer of a portrait because it seemed to promise entertainment away from, well, the nerdy version of entertainment.
Sutton explained that he was using Touchjet Pond. This is a new technology which comprises a little white projector that’s actually a tiny interactive Android PC. It claims to be the first to turn any surface into an 80-inch screen.
I wasn’t tempted to look at his portrait, even if the steely-eyed powers-that-be from Touchjet hovered, trying to make sure he didn’t make me look too much like a criminal or a baby. (I’m like a cross between the two.)
Instead, I wanted to know who he was. It turns out Sutton was a physicist who came to California from England after working for Oxford Instruments. He used to dabble in art, but when digital art came along, he became rather more immersed.
Why use this technology?
“With other digital technologies, you’re painting on a smooth surface. With this, I can paint on canvas. It’s a big difference,” Sutton told me.
All you have to do is download the apps you require to the projector from the Google Play store and perform your art. Your art might include gaming, editing documents or even playing videos.
Sutton’s art involves drawing lines, standing back, drawing more lines, squinting, looking slightly askance at his subject and, I suspect, wondering about the subject’s genetic makeup and sanity level.
But you’ll be wondering how the technology works. It has a light-processing unit positioned near the lens of the projector. This picks up an infrared signal that then runs through an image-processing algorithm. That process translates the location of the user’s gesture into a standard touchpoint signal.
The algorithm has to process thousands of points and dozens of projected frames per second in order to deliver an interactive experience.
In my case, this felt just like having your portrait painted late one night in some large city center after you’ve had dinner and several drinks.
I didn’t look at what he was painting till the end. I think he captured the criminal baby with some aplomb.
But this is art. You must be the judge.