Wearable electronics and the future of story telling.
“The Story of the Wind” was an interactive storytelling project that was put on at Amager Strand, a beach in Copenhagen, Denmark. The project consisted of a “wind dress” that lets you experience an old tale by Hans Christian Andersen, encouraging you to listen to the wind to hear its stories. The dress has large folds of fabric that capture the wind, along with sensors that generate ambient music depending on the movement of the dress and the harshness of the wind. Instead of taking a user far from his environment into a digital world, the “wind dress” reconnects people to the beauty of their land, culture and history.
The inspiration behind our dress is from a story written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1859. To summarize, “The Story of the Wind” is about an upperclass family that loses a great amount of money. The father, Valdemar, spends the rest of his life trying to gain his riches back. The whole story is told from the perspective of the wind, who sometimes intervenes to tell the man that life is short and that he should not focus on money to make him happy. We based our project specifically on the beginning portion which says:
“When the wind runs across the fields, then the grass ripples like water and the fields of grain form waves like the sea. That is the dance of the wind. But try to listen to it when it sings. Its songs sound differently according to where you hear them, whether you are in a forest or listening when the wind makes its way through cracks and crevices in a wall. Look up and watch how the wind is chasing the clouds, as if they were a flock of sheep. Listen as it howls through the open gates; it thinks it is the night watchman blowing a horn. Now it is coming down the chimney; the fire in the fireplace burns higher and sparks fly. The light from the flames illuminates the whole room for a minute. It is so nice and warm and cozy in here, just right for listening. Let the wind tell us what story it wants to, it knows so many more tales and stories than we do.”
We wanted people in Denmark to experience the same wind that Hans Christian Andersen wrote about many years ago. Our goal was to tell this tale in a new way for a younger millennial generation. Instead of the usual illustrations and drawings that come along side many great works of literature, we decided to make a physical performance which brings a different experience every time the user puts on the dress. This experience creates a perception in the same way his story did for others many years ago. However, by using technology to retell the story, we modify the represented object, bringing new relevance. In addition to reading the story, people can experience it for themselves through the dress, creating a stronger connection between the person and the meaning behind the narrative. This digital mediation brings new feeling and experiences about the story.
In the spirit of Hans Christian Andersen, the dress simply cultivates imagination and play. At a deeper level, the dress explores how modern-day storytelling can help people learn about their culture, connecting them to their space and communities. This gives people further reason to care and preserve their stories, history and protect the environment.
So much of our lives we fail to stop and listen to who and what came before us. In Andersen’s story, the character of the wind is wise, having knowledge and history of the land. He inspires the reader to simply to stop and listen. If we stop and think about how many people have stood in our exact spot before us, would we be more open to hearing all the stories, memories and lessons from history? What if we could stop to listen to each of these stories?
Although the dress is made specifically for Copenhagen, we can see it being used in other cities as a way to experience Danish culture in any location. We hope this project inspires other artists and technologists to use their skills to create installations, performances, and experiences that not only bring communities together, but are rooted in stories of their culture to keep history alive.
Through collaboration with Di Mainstone and Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, we were prompted to create an interactive performance using wearable technology. From our time in Denmark, it was easy to decide to focus on a story from Hans Christian Andersen. We spent some time looking through some of his lesser-known fairy tales, and happened upon this tale about the wind. As Denmark produces 42% of its electricity through wind power, we knew this would be easy for the Danish to connect with. We chose a dress or cape as a means to capture and interact with the wind.
How it Works:
“The Story of the Wind” has a unique system helping the user to experience the wind in a deeper way through the interface of wearable technology. The dress has two main inputs. First, there is input from the movement when the user sculpts the shape of the dress to capture the wind. The other input is the strength of the wind as it is captured by the fabric. As the user experiences the gentleness or forcefulness of the wind, they are able to get a reflection of the wind’s mood at a specific moment by hearing the loudness or softness of ambient sounds. We were able to achieve this system by using a Lilypad Arduino and sensors connected by conductive thread. With the intensity of the wind, data is collected by a piezo sensor that is then translated into sound. Depending on the shape that the user creates to capture the wind, data from tilt sensors also change the expression of this sound. The combination of the shapes and sounds generates a new illustration of the narrative.
Collaborators: Ana Catharina Marques, Kostantinos Frantzis
Special Thanks: Di Mainstone and David Gauthier