PING! is an augmented reality experience created by Jesse Fleming for Mass MOCA’s Kidspace. The project is born out of desire to transmute our innate physiological conditioning of separateness. The title PING! is taken from the definition meaning to create a query form one computer to another, or one person to another, establishing a network. PING! is prompted by the belief that our perception of separateness (from others or separateness from our environment) is a false view which can be augmented and modulated via media stimuli. Within the experience of PING! a user is provided with a headset (think walkman) with a 360 degree array of ultrasonic sensors (the same sensors Tesla automotive uses for its autopilot technology). These sensors pick up objects within 15 feet from the user sending out pings in all direction. When the user moves through space the data sets (values) of their distance from others and their environment are converted into an auditory feedback. An emerging soundscape is formed between the user and everything around them. Unique fields of sound are created via proximity, locomotion, and pacing, keeping the user in a state of constant flux, emergent harmony, interaction — unified to their surroundings and continuously inclusive.
Why PING! in Kidspace? Good question! Besides being fun, something that parents and kids can enjoy together, a museum serves as a contemplative space. Our experience in a museum in unlike the outside world because the environment has been catered to the experience of the artwork, or the artwork has been catered to the experience of the environment. In either case, or even in the symbiotic case of both, attention to surroundings and attention have been given intentionality to convey experience and meaning. Places of worship are like this too, icons, space, symbolism are structured towards connection and simultaneous transcendence. PING! too is about the experience of simultaneous embodiment and transcendence of an independent self. Another reason for PING! in Kidspace is to give our digital-native children the experience of technology as a connective medium that does not require a screen as the interface. With a screen we must disengage from our environment end enter into the screen space. With PING! we enter into our environment with heightened awareness and develop a unique, new means of interfacing with others. PING! is a self-other medium and Mass MOCA’s Kidspace offers the ideal training context for this artistic social tool.