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The Janus Machine: Interactive 3D Scanning Installation

Lately, it seems like we’re seeing the implementation of 3D scanning and modeling everywhere we turn—from product design, to video game graphics, to music videos, to interactive art. And we’re likely to see many more projects emerge in the years to come as rapid development in this field helps the technology mature and come into its own. The Janus Machine is one of the most recent interactive art installations to surface in this realm, and it’s a fascinating amalgamation of several 3D modeling processes and techniques we’ve seen implemented in the past year, many of which originated with the project’s creators and were adapted by other artists after the code was released on openFrameworks.


Photo courtesy Kyle McDonald

From the artists:

While sitting at the chair in front of the scanner you are bathed in structured light, allowing the shape of your profile to be digitized and archived. This portrait, an attempt to capture your likeness in three dimensions, is compared to a library of other portraits captured in the same manner. From these comparisons emerges an outline of the captured form: a playful perspective on your relationship to others, built from light, inviting you to explore further.

Janus is a god from Roman mythology, strongly associated with transitions and duality: young and old, coming and going, or the past and future. Janus is often depicted with two faces, each facing in opposite directions. “The Janus Machine” offers a modern corollary for this ancient metaphor and mythology.


Photo courtesy Kyle McDonald

The artists behind The Janus Project, Kyle McDonald, Zachary Lieberman, Theodore Watson​, and Daito Manabe, built the 3D scanning technology used in Radical Friend’s The Digital Flesh installation (check out the interactive online component here), which toured the world with our Creators Project launch event series. Artist Kyle McDonald told us that The Janus Project was in part inspired by the work the designers did on The Digital Flesh, and it incorporates many of the same components: 3D facial scanning, a library of scans that allows you to merge your portrait with those of others, the notion of exploring your relationship to others, and more.

The project debuted at the Ars Electronica festival this September, the installation will be on display at the Ars Electronica Center through September 2011. Check back here next week to catch the premier of our video documenting The Digital Flesh: Birth from our Beijing event.