York’s Digital Media students break new ground in interactive and immersive computational arts

April 6, 2016

York’s Digital Media students break new ground in interactive and immersive computational arts

Digital Media students present their groundbreaking work in Computational Beauty, a juried exhibition featuring original objects and experiences invented by using code and programming as tools for creative expression.

On view downtown at the InterAccess Gallery are games, interactive physical objects, digital storytelling, interactive performance and works in augmented, virtual and mixed reality that break with tradition and blaze a bold new digital path. The show opens April 7 with a public reception from 6 to 9pm and continues until April 16.

The innovative works chosen for the exhibition embody a wide range of themes, formats and digital technologies, boundary-breaking thinking, and adventurous team spirit. Here’s a taste of what visitors will experience in the show:


LUXX is a high-tech tag game created by Anas Ashraf, Rick Demeester, Yirui Fu, Justin Hsieh, Ziluo Hua, Daniel James, Vikil Naik, Cindy Nguyen, Keren Xu and Mingxin Zhang. Players use wearable LED suits that light up, made using Arduino, XBee, RFID readers, 3D printing and thread, with custom sewing support from the Department of Theatre. Up to 10 participants can play one of the three tag games LUXX is trained for.


Victor Zhoni (pictured) and Stefano Onorati’s Audible Shapes is 3D generative music visualizer software created with Unity with C# scripting, Leap Motion and Max. It allows users to use their hands and a webcam to manipulate on-screen objects to compose music or sound art.

Keke Zhou’s Red & the Dog Days of Summer

Keke Zhou puts an atypical spin on a computer role-playing game with Red & the Dog Days of Summer, created with RPG Maker MV, Piskel 2.0 and Adobe Photoshop CS5. Eschewing standard combat-oriented gameplay, it focuses instead on a character-driven detective narrative.


With Emoti-Conundrum, an original board game based on the overarching theme of emotions, Justin Hsieh and Salim Sultanaly want to bring people together with a sense of shared nostalgia for childhood family games. The project was made using Raspberry Pi, Arduino and Python.


Unity software-based Encounter, by Youhan Guan, Lalaine Ulit-Destajo and Mengmei Zhou, is a mixed-reality ecosystem experience. An immersive projection space and a tangible play area explore the experience of co-existence with synthetic creatures.

A robot created by Christina Paik, Tom Pham, Louis St-Amour and Robert Warner

iLene is an emotional robot created with Arduino by Christina Paik, Tom Pham, Louis St-Amour and Robert Warner. The robot’s cylindrical figure invites interaction and her screen face displays her feelings and reactions towards the person playing with her.

Calvin Fennel, Tony Nguyen and Colin Ruan’s Ecology of Networks

Calvin Fennel, Tony Nguyen and Colin Ruan built Ecology of Networks with Arduino. Glowing mushroom sculptures fitted with microphones receive and process sound values that influence the colour suffusing the rest of the mushrooms.


Another Arduino project, Light Up Your Sleeve by Erik Fernandez, Trinh Nguyen and Suhail Othman, is a wearable device that lights up based on how long both gloves are in contact with one another and the user’s heartbeat.

A video screening documents the interactive sound, visuals and code-based projections that Digital Media students contributed to The Birds, an interdisciplinary Theatre @ York production, staged in March 2016, that was a creative collaboration between theatre, dance, digital media and music students together with faculty members and guest artists in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design.

The works in the exhibition were selected from the larger Digital Media Showcase, curated by Digital Media faculty members, that took place on campus April 5. Twenty outstanding projects from the showcase were selected for Computational Beauty by a trio of faculty members from outside the program: Professor David Gelb from the Department of Design; Kurt Thumlert, lecturer in new media and technology studies in the Faculty of Education; and AMPD True Visitor Haru Ji, a transartist/researcher in artificial life worldmaking and assistant professor in Art & Technology at Sogang University, Seoul, Korea.

Computational Beauty runs April 7 to 16, Tuesday through Saturday from 12-6pm at InterAccess Gallery, 9 Ossington Avenue, Toronto. Admission is free.