New Idea: In-Person Video Chat

At the beginning of this project, I decided that I wanted to focus on the continuously lost and found art of communication. We, as a species, have developed countless ways of communicating with one another, always upgrading and changing the technology as go. And yet, most of us have removed ourselves from the most primal form of communication: talking person-to-person.

My original proposal was to create a Rube Goldberg machine of sorts that would translate a message from one person to another through a variety of communication media, old and new. For instance, one person would speak their message into a microphone, which was hooked to a computer, which would translate the message to text, which would send an email, which would be received by another account, which would be txted to a phone, which would then convert it to ASCII, which then would be converted to morse code, and so on. At each stage, some fidelity would probably be lost, which would make it more unpredictable (and entertaining), similar to the game Telephone (or as Wikipedia has it, Chinese Whispers). However, as much as I want to do this project (I’ve had versions of this going in my mind for a few years), I realized that it would take several computers and/or Arduinos to do all of these conversions. My six-year-old laptop would not be up to the task.

So instead, I propose to make a simpler, hopefully more direct way of showing the social-digital divide. When researching displays for my thesis, I found out that LCD screens are essentially transparent, even the ones we use for our computers.

I’ve taken apart one, and even managed to get it hooked up to a VGA signal (from my iPad, seen through the screen), so I know this can be done.

transparent lcd showing a book on the other side

What I would like to do is create a way of chatting with another user that allows two people to type to one another, while at the same time seeing the other person’s face through the screen. Yes, the people would be able to talk to each other, but that’s the point: we so often let technology mediate what could be a real and meaningful experience.

As you can see in the image above, the screen is pretty dark without the backlight. I’m going to see if I can lighten it up a bit. Apparently there are ways of removing the antiglare coating, which I’ll try to do this week. I’m also playing around with what sort of graphics or text to use. Here’s my most recent idea on how this might work:

Chat Screen Example

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