Designing Interfaces for Interactive Artworks

Page Reference:


The authors are artists working on the creation of interactive computer installations that combine interactive graphic generation with state-of-the-art interface design. When creating interactive systems they often invent new technologies and interfaces that fit the conceptual content of the particular interactive installation. While the main focus is to design interactive systems for the art context (C.Sommerer and L. Mignonneau, 1998), the interactive and immersive technologies can also be used in edutainment applications. The article summarizes some of the key concepts for interface and interaction design and presents some interface technologies in more detail.


[1] Designing Interfaces for Interactive Artworks


Abundance is a temporary public installation commissioned for the City of San Jose, California by ZER01 – the Art and Technology Network.


GlowFlow is a visually and auditive reactive environment. In a dark room 4 neon tube are mounted, in order to create the misleading impression that the room is narrowing and slopy. At certain positions there are presure sensors, which starts a choreography of light and sound.

The accustomed perception of spaces is slightly disturbed and it was observed that some visitors tried to find out how the rule system of the installation is working.

Glow Flow

Early video games

Tennis for Two, which you’ll see in this contribution, is considered as the first video game (not computer game!) ever. It is often seen as a predecessor to the famous Pong which was published by Atari about 20 years later.

Tennis for Two was programmed in 1958 as a highly entertaining piece for a visitor’s day at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where also the first game for a digital computer, Spacewar!, was created later in 1961.

Aspen Moviemap, Google Street View, Viewfinder

Aspen Moviemap:

The Aspen Moviemap (1978-80) is one of the precursors of Google Streetview and Viewfinder.  The work of Michael Naimark, one of the key figures involved in the development of Aspen Moviemap, has continued to explore the relationship between location, video, interactivity, and virtuality. His Viewfinder project seeks to seamlessly Flickrize Google Earth.

Google Streetview and Google Earth/Maps are following two different ways of creating 3D-views of the earth. Google-Maps integrates artificial constructed models of buildings. On the other hand Google-Streetview takes pictures while they drive by car through the streets. These pictures will be combined later by a special software to create a much more realistic 3D-scene than Google-Maps has. Google-Streetview allows the user to walk through the streets by simply doubleclicking. Both projects are still in development, so users can’t see everything in 3D. But the feature that you can go through scenes on your own way and see everything as you be there is an amazing experience.

For example follow the link to Google-Streetview, choose a location from the map on the lower end of the site and take a look by yourself in 3D at your choosen location.


Michael Naimark’s website

Viewfinder Fly-Through:

Michael Naimark, “How to Seamlessly Flickrize Google Maps” (Google TechTalk lecture, April 2008):

More details on Aspen Movie Map



Panoscope360 / Where are You?

Similar to the Cave environment, Panoscope360 is an immersive environment. It uses a trompe l’oeil effect to create the impression of a real three dimensional immersion while he visitor stands in the middle of the projection space, a halph sphere or a bowl.

Project page.

Text Rain

In 1999, Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv created Text Rain.

It is “an interactive installation in which participants use the familiar instrument of their bodies, to do what seems magical—to lift and play with falling letters that do not really exist.” [1]

Participants can “stand or move in front of a large projection screen where they see a mirrored video projection of themselves in black and white, combined with a colour animation of falling text.”[2]

[1] Camille Utterback’s Homepage,

[2] Edward  A. Shanken, Art and Electronic Media, Page 45.