UNITY is an interactive installation created by Alberto Bonanni and presented as part of the MA Digital Direction’s final show at the Royal College of Art in London in 2020.

The project is an attempt to give life to the inherently invisible energy and electricity that we feel in clubs, raves, or other collective experiences of music featuring repetitive beats and transcendence-like experiences. Within the rave culture, such energy is often described as the overall vibration that results from each participant’s contribution with dance, moves and expression of affective states. According to situated cognition psychology, what generates is a feedback loop of ‘positive vibrations’, where the way people surrounding us respond to music influences the way we move ourselves, and vice versa, we can influence them with our moves and music acts as a catalyst to provide the overall rhythm. Party lovers call this loop ‘vibe‘.

I looked at the others around me and I could see in their eyes the very peace and warmth that I was feeling. Their gestures and the way they danced only amplified this‘vibe’ and continued it through the night, and I wondered if we were all living in a dream…

Keep the vibe alive!

P.M. West (1996), on hyperreal.org

UNITY consists in three rear projection screens attached to a metal structure. Each screen displays animated avatars: the one in the middle features motion capture data in real time, captured with a depth camera attached to the frame and rendered with a particle system that responds to velocity – the higher the velocity, the brighter the particles!- : the two side avatars are rendered with similar particle systems and show dance moves recorded from the previous users.

Screen 1: Motion capture (camera off)
Screen 2: Recorded animation 1
Screen 3: Recorded animation 2

Every user will be recorded while dancing to the acid-techno track produced by TSN1 & Ostalgia (from the pugliese team Equipe Fatale) with avatars that represent the previous two users, as to re-create a clubbing environment and the feeling of dancing and synchronizing with other people around us. Unconsciously, this creates a feedback loop of synchronization, where music tempo and particles’ brightness both influence the way each user respond to the music.

Outside the structure a TV screen displays velocity data captured from the user, along with the visualization of the music frequencies. Thanks to a custom algorithm that tracks the aggregate of velocity data from each user’s movement, data can be wrapped up and sent to sphere, affecting its size accordingly. Once again, the higher the velocity aggregate, the bigger the sphere!

The comparison between the sphere’s size and music frequencies – seen below as circular waves – showcases the synchronization of our movement to music frequencies and dynamics.

The interactive experience in UNITY is also an attempt to provide the feeling of being part of a community, a warmth whole greater than us that allows us to offload our agency into what surrounds us, being it the music or our peers.

For the process video, please visit UNITY (Process Video).


Music: TSN1 & Ostalgia
Technical support: Thomas Deacon