Looking back at the Raumklang residency

Zeno van den Broek and Robin Koek look back on their stay at V2_, where they were working on Raumklang.

Taken from cargocollective.com/raumklang/V2_-2020, please follow the link for a version with photos.

In this year of continuous flux with the pandemic pulling and pushing the agenda we are happy to inform you we recently could work on-site at V2_ for the next steps developing Raumklang in actual physical space since a long time. It was a very inspiring and fruitful week and with this post we like to shed light on some of the new developments.

Since our last presentation in the Abbey of Montescaglioso a lot has happened. In a time of mainly remote working we focussed on innovations in the tracking system which enhance the spatial accuracy of the work and invested a lot of research in the future hardware for the wearable layer of the work as well as refining concepts of the augmented sound architecture in terms of digital design. Since the last iteration we have now integrated an upgraded version of the UWB tracking technology which allows for scalability and is more robust, preparing ourselves for long-term autonomous exhibitions which can be flexibly scaled to a venue / site. The company from which we have acquired the system unfortunately had misinformed us on the purchase with false promises on performance and conditions so we spend almost half year resolving this. We can with a big relief inform that this has been settled and that we finally can focus on the content of the work and the experience.

V2 has installed the same tracking system which makes it a perfect environment to work on the new stages of precision in motion tracking within Raumklang. A central focus in the residency was exploring the response and quality of the new tracking system and integrating with our virtual sound architecture.

Another element of sonic spatial precision was an upgrade in the depth and clarity of sound projection itself. In the last months we have tested various headphones on comfort and sound quality and during this time we got in touch with the company Gerrard Street as their modular headphone design with high fidelity drew our attention. During the week at V2 we have extensively tested their DAY headphone model while exploring the sound architecture and we are very impressed by the compelling sound quality. This residency left us very positive about a future with this model at the heart of Raumklang!

As you can see in the pictures below the headphone also opens up possibilities for seamless integration of the sensors (the sensors got a lot smaller in the new version!)

Besides the headphone experience we have also improved all other wearable aspects of the hardware. The Raspberry Pi has been upgraded to the 4b model which gives us whole new possibilities in terms of digital signal processing and it runs very smooth in comparison to its predecessor giving us a lot of headroom to refine the sound engine; an exciting avenue for the next months ahead. The RPI is now housed in a large heatsink which makes it very sturdy and efficient in terms of cooling.

Next to this have also switched the power supply to a Pi-Juice based system with a lithium battery which keeps current stable until the last load cycle, avoiding drop-outs when the battery is almost drained at the end of an exhibition day. The programmable aspect of the Pi-Juice gives us a lot of flexibility also for future exhibitions to define certain power routines and battery check-ups.

Other innovations were mainly about connecting the parts physically. During the last months we have investigated a variety of connectors and busses with the aim of sturdiness, flexibility and small-scale elegant solutions. In the picture below you see the current naked prototype of our version 2.0, we are now in the steps of designing the wearable housing which will contain the electronics as the visitors explore the installation.

During our residency we had a few close colleagues visiting towards the end of the week to experience the new version in its current state. It was really rewarding and special (especially after this extended period of lockdown and continuous shifting agendas) to be together in the room and just explore and experience, to be in the moment. We received some very positive feedback on the richness of the experience as well as points to work on in the coming months. Our own observation was that with the precision of the new tracking system with the implementation of the bno055 sensor provides a more rich and detailed experience. This translates into each visitor being able to build their own hybrid relationship in movement with the actual space and the existing sound architecture, more articulated than we have witnessed before, this is a great step forward.

Next months we will further develop the installation based on the feedback we have received and our own goals, advancing towards the final version with the current focus on user experience. The residency at V2 was a very important step in closing the more essential hardware prototyping and shifting our focus to the experience level, we are very grateful to V2 supporting us in the longer trajectory of realizing Raumklang!

On long term collaborations we are also very happy to announce that we have started working with Richard Pelgrim who is overlooking the production planning while also maintaining the conceptual anchors of the project. With this he helps us to make sure the essence and visions of the work are not forgotten amidst all the more rational technological advancements.e are extremely excited about this new step and can feel how the intersections and new perspectives add rich new layers to the project. We will keep you posted!

From: cargocollective.com/raumklang/V2_-2020

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