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Wedding Dresses With Interactive Flowers? Inside Dartmouth's Digital Arts Exhibition

Next week Dartmouth College will showcase the work of its digital artists, from animators and game designers to those developing interactive pieces and even fashion.

Lorie Loeb is a professor in Dartmouth’s Computer Science department and director of its digital arts program. She joined Weekend Edition with a preview of the 4th annual Digital Arts Exhibition, known as DAX. It takes place Tuesday, April 28th from 7-10 pm.

Where did the idea for this event originate?

The idea for the event originated four years ago, when we were really getting going with our digital arts program, an undergraduate program - now we have an undergraduate and graduate program. There were also other digital arts works being produced by students all across campus. So as more and more students wanted to use computational tools to make art, it seemed like we needed a place to showcase it and celebrate it.

As part of the evening there's a screening of computer-animated short films. I remember when I was in school that putting anything up on screen through a computer was pretty exciting. Now students have immense capabilities. What are they coming up with?

Amazing work- 3-D computer animation using state-of-the-art software tools, the same they would use at Pixar and at Disney. But they have much less time - whereas a computer animation that you would see in the movie theater might be three years worth of work and millions of dollars and thousands of people, students at Dartmouth have one term, ten weeks, three people and no budget at all. But they put together some extraordinary films, with a wide variety of topics, from things that are funny to things that are serious and political, personal, documentaries about some of the buildings here - a wide range of things.

Participants will also be able to interact with some digital art pieces and interactive installations. In many cases users could do this on a laptop at home. How does it change the experience to interact with a piece of digital art in a physical setting with others around, like in an art gallery?

The difference is that you can have multiple people interacting all at the same time, sometimes countering each other. So if it's responding to sound, if I'm using a high pitch and someone else is using a low pitch, we might affect the way the art responds differently and start playing together. So it becomes a shared experience. You can use a tablet and draw on walls, make magic happen. It becomes really magical, sort of jumping into a Harry Potter world of interaction. It's really fun to see.

And on top of those, there's a cyber-fashion show. How does that work?

This is [where] high-end fashion pieces meet the digital world. This is a group of students in the Digital Arts, Leadership and Innovation Lab. [They] have been working for a couple of years on this. And we have everything from a dress that responds to sound and Twitter feeds, or fabric that responds to heat, 3-D printed garments, a wedding dress that has flowers that open and close as the bride walks down the aisle and LED lights that twinkle when she kisses her partner. There are students right now, as I speak, printing jewelry using 3-D printers and using laser cutters to make different accessories for the project.

It really is exciting to see what happens when you bring together arts and technology in this way. It's an exciting outlet for everyone and it allows for some of this instantaneous delight.

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