REPOSITORY : Glass Bottom Boat
Glass Bottom Boat ( 2004 / 2005 )
Artificial Life, revisited

A robotic glass bottom boat carries six passengers on a tour of a shallow lagoon. As the boat tuckers along towards its destination, graphically enhanced examples of the underwater wonders are displayed on the tour boat's screens. Boasting an air of intelligence, this system makes use of the desire to suspend belief that accompanies the narrative of artificial life. The screens display synthetic E-fish that set a mode of artificial pastoral serenity, feeding the desire to suspend belief that accompanies the narrative of artificial life. Colorful, plentiful and forever frolicking across the screen they embody the desire to marvel at the wonders of the mysterious underwater world from afar.

Once at its destination the search for real creatures of the deep begins. An automated narration system describes the underwater world in informed authority. The video analysis system then attempts to classify the scene: corals, rocks, sandbank, plants, fish, etc. Despite prior supervised training, the automated system will only partially succeed in its analysis. Where it is not confident of its results, it makes assumptions and fictitious extensions of the real. The synthetic voice warns of dangers that do not exist. It suggests alliances amongst the various fish species that cannot be verified. And when the waters are murky, the system confronts the passengers with the fallout of lifestyles that feed such trips of leisure: discarded objects, tires, television sets, shopping carts, rusting vehicles, encrusted computers. The narration system uses text to speech synthesis in the languages of the historically most persistent conquerors - also the standard languages of synthetic speech engines -, English, French, Dutch, Spanish and German, to tally statistics of waste and to tell stories we might prefer to forget.

tour coral reef

[.wmv, 1.7Meg]

tour murky waters

[.wmv, 739kb]

avi video samples  

related project

A Nature Interpretation Center with Second Thoughts