Articles

A Floating Sound Orb Transmits the Past to the Future

by Allison Meier on April 9, 2014

Space Replay

“Space Replay” (all images courtesy Francesco Tacchini, Julinka Ebhardt, and Will Yates-Johnson)

Some people think that ghosts are fragments from people’s lives imprinted on the world, playing over and over again after death. A sound project evokes this idea of a “delayed echo” of activity with a dreamlike black orb that floats through the air.

Space Replay” was created by graduate student Francesco Tacchini with Julinka Ebhardt and Will Yates-Johnson from Design Products as part of the Information Experience Design program at the Royal College of Art in London. As Tacchini explained to Gizmag, they wanted to examine people’s relationships to ambient and environmental sounds with an object “that could augment or disrupt that experience.”

Space Replay

Watching “Space Replay” creep by (click to enlarge)

In February the group filmed the orb slowly descending in the center of a staircase while transmitting the voices of the departed, hovering through the South Kensington pedestrian tunnel and streaming its soundtrack of phantom voices, even joining a woman for an elevator ride while radioing a bland conversation as company. All the while, “Space Replay” appears like some surreal specter warping reality — a modernist descendent of the white sphere “Rover” from the 1960s British TV show The Prisoner.

The components of "Space Replay"

The components of “Space Replay”

The construction of “Space Replay” is relatively simple. The body is a latex black balloon filled to neutral buoyancy, meaning to the same density of the air; this way it can glide on the air currents and seem to move of its own accord. Inside its inflated body is a battery-powered Arduino and Adafruit Wave Shield hacked to record and play back sounds. The result is like a smaller-scale version of last year’s “Voice Tunnel” by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, where visitors recorded their voices, which were then transmitted back minutes later in waves through the tunnel, mixed with some of the uncanny eeriness of Berndnaut Smilde’s clouds manifesting in rooms.

Tacchini told Hyperallergic that the group will discuss the project during the Boring Conference in London in May and is continuing to develop prototypes in the coming months to improve “Space Replay.”

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