Virginia Tech™home

Aesthetic Computing & Music Computing Research

Fluid Echoes is a research and performance project investigating how deep neural networks can learn to interpret dance through human joints, gestures, and movement qualities. This new technology will be immediately applied to allowing dancers to generate and perform choreography remotely as necessitated by the COVID-19 quarantine. Researchers collaborating from their homes across the visual arts (Zach Duer), performing arts (Scotty Hardwig), and engineering (Myounghoon Jeon) at Virginia Tech are working in partnership with the San Francisco-based dance company LEVYdance to build this new platform, funded by the Virginia Tech Institute for Creativity Arts and Technology (ICAT) COVID-19 Rapid Response Grant and LEVYdance.

fluid echoes

Virtual reality (VR) is an emerging technology of artistic expression that enables live, immersive aesthetics for interactive media. However, VR-based interactive media are often consumed in a solitary set-up and cannot be shared in social settings. Having a VR-headset for every bystander and synchronizing headsets can be costly and cumbersome. In practice, a secondary screen is provided to bystanders and shows what the VR user is seeing. However, the bystanders cannot have a holistic view this way. To engage the bystanders in the VR-based interactive media, we propose a technique with which the bystanders can see the VR headset user and their experience from a third person perspective. We have developed a physical apparatus for the bystanders to see the VR environment through a tablet screen. We use the motion tracking system to create a virtual camera in VR and map the apparatus’ physical location to the location of the virtual camera. The bystanders can use the apparatus like a camera viewfinder to freely move and see the virtual world through and control their viewpoint as active spectators. We hypothesize that this form of third person view will improve the bystanders’ engagement and immersiveness. Also, we anticipate that the audience members’ control over their POV will enhance their agency in their viewing experience. We plan to test our hypotheses through user studies to confirm if our approach improves the bystanders’ experience. This project is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Sangwon Lee in CS and Zach Duer in Visual Arts, supported by the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT).

VR Viewfinder

In this research project, we tie together the beauty in visual art and music by developing a sonification system that maps image characteristics (e.g., salient regions) and semantics (e.g., art style, historical period, feeling evoked) to relevant sound structures. The goal of this project is to be able to produce music that is not only unique and high-quality, but is also fitting to the artistic pieces from which the data were mapped from. To this end, we have interviewed experts from the fields of music, sonification, and visual arts and extracted key factors to make appropriate mappings. We plan to conduct successive empirical experiments with various design alternatives. A combination of JythonMusic, Python and machine learning algorithms has been used to develop the sonification algorithms.


Taking embodied cognition and interactive sonification into account, we have developed an immersive interactive sonification platform, "iISop" at Immersive Visualization Studio (IVS) at Michigan Tech. 12 Vicon cameras around the studio wall track users' location, movement, and gesture and then, the sonification system generates speech, music, and sounds in real-time based on those tracking data. 24 multivisions display visualization of the data. With a fine-tuned gesture-based interactive sonification system, a performing artist (Tony Orrico) made digitalized works on the display wall as well as penwald drawings on the canvas. Users can play the piano by hopping with a big virtual piano that responds to their movements. We are also conducting artistic experiments with robots and puppies. Currently, we are focusing on making more accessible mapping software between motion and sound, and a portable version of this motion tracking and sonification system. Future works include implementing natural user interfaces and a sonification-inspired story-telling system for children. This project has been partly supported by the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Tech, the International School of Art & Design at Finlandia University, and the Superior Ideas Citemd Funding.

* iISoP comes from a Greek writer, Aesop.



Traditionally, dancers choreograph based on music. On the contrary, the ultimate goal of this project is to have dancers improvise music and visuals by their dancing. Dancers still play an expected role (dance), but simultaneously integrate unexpected roles (improvise music and visuals). From the traditional perspective, this might embarrass dancers and audience, but certainly adds aesthetic dimensions to their work. In this project, we adopted emotions and affect as the medium of communication between gestures and sounds. To maximize affective gesture expression, expert dancers have been recruited to dance, move, and gesture inside the iISoP system while being given both visual and auditory outputs in real time. A combination of Laban Movement Analysis and affective gesturing was implemented for the sonification parameter algorithms.

dancer sonification

The recent dramatic advance of machine learning and artificial intelligence has also propelled robotics research into a new phase. Even though it is not a main stream of robotics research, robotic art is getting more widespread than ever before. In this design research, we have designed and implemented a novel robotic art framework, in which human dancers and drones can collaboratively create visualization and sonification in the immersive virtual environment. This dynamic, intermodal interaction will open up a new potential for novel aesthetic dimensions.


There was a tragic accident of sinking a ferry in Korea in April 16, 2014. We aim to remember this tragedy together to support people who lost their family in the accident and let more people know about it for prompt resolution of this matter. Artists and scholars have tried to show their support for family by performances and writings. In the same line, we have created a real-time tweet sonification program using “#416”, the date of the tragedy. The text of tweets including #416 is translated into the Morse code and sonified in real-time.


To add a novel value (i.e., value-added design) to the electronic devices (e.g., home appliances, mobile devices, in-vehicle infotainment, etc.), we have designed various auditory displays (e.g., auditory icons, earcons, spearcons, spindexes, etc.). The design process involves not only cognitive mappings (from the human factors perspectives), but also affective mappings (from the aesthetics and pleasantness perspectives). We have also developed new sound-assessment methodologies such as the Sound Card Sorting and Sound-Map Positioning. Current projects include the design of Auditory Emoticons and Lyricons (Lyrics + Earcons). Based on these diverse experiences, we will continue to conduct research on this auditory display designs to create more fun and engaging products as well as effective and efficient products.

auditory menu