Microsoft's artist-in-residence creates a two-story structure "where architecture and artificial intelligence merge"

October 13th

Jenny Sabin, Microsoft Research's artist-in-residence, has completed a large art installation that reacts to employees' facial expressions, tones of voice, and other stimuli in real time.

The installation, named Ada, is a large, honeycomb-like structure made up of nodes, fiberglass rods and interwoven fabric webbing. A cone hangs in the middle of the structure, composed of fiber optic cables. Lights and colors in the structure change in reaction to data collected by cameras and microphones installed throughout the building.

Ada is suspended in the atrium of Microsoft's Building 99 in Redmond, Washington.

Sabin wanted to use feminine, soft shapes and employ knitting, which she says is an early form of 3d printing, to explore how the physical world can change in reaction to data.

“There are many intangible structures and spatial aspects of data that we can’t really see or feel or understand without it meeting a different type of material interface,” said Sabin, who runs Jenny Sabin Studio in Ithaca, New York.

Others at Microsoft, like researcher Daniel McDuff, are taking part in the project and will use its results to inform future research.

From Microsoft's blog:

McDuff and his colleagues will store the deidentified numerical data – stripped of all video, audio and text to comply with Microsoft’s privacy requirements – collected from Ada for three years. They’ll use it to study research questions such as how weather patterns and current events impact our facial expressions, voice tones and language and to explore how patterns of behavior change throughout the day.

"On average, I smile about twice as frequently in the morning than in the evening," said McDuff, who looked at his own data. "I didn’t know that. That seems like a lot. Hopefully this project will make us aware of some of those types of patterns."

Microsoft's research director Eric Horvitz said that Ada is the first step toward exploring how physical environments and personal data may interact in the future.

“One can imagine other uses,” he added. “Like, how might environments in the future shift to make themselves be more conducive to collaboration based on the participants, and their goals and needs?”