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GranulatSynthese is an installation for the intuitive creation of ambient, meditative audio-visuals. It uses granulate distributed over a surface with projected visuals and generated sound. A haptic, visual, and auditory landscape can be explored and composed intuitively. The project,  which received the Eurographics John Lansdown Award for Digital Interactive Art 2007, is described further down the page.

In [BSE08], the installation is described, plus the paper includes a general discussion of using granulate as interfacing metaphor. With granules spread over a table, shapes can easily be formed by using the presence or absence of granules. In GranulatSynthese we use the absence of granules on the otherwise covered table to identify shapes. Those shapes in form, size and position are connected with a meaning, subsequently controlling an application. Thus, granules on tabletop surfaces feature an intuitive and accessible way of forming shapes and controlling a computer. Furthermore, they provide haptic feedback and allow for back-projetion of images onto them.

GranulatSynthese was exhibited at TEI'08 in Bonn. It was featured on TV (3Sat) together with our interactive chair, the ChairIO.

In our Interactive Media class we developed a Simulator for interactive tables, extending the TUIO protocol to allow for area and shape recognition. We also developed the game Granulinge, featuring a lemmings style game and task. Reshaping the playable area was the main interaction in this game. The task was to rescue the small creatures from hungry monsters and guide them to the other side of the table in their goal area. We also utilized the metaphor for controlling a GUI, coverig and uncovering GUI elements for control (on/off, or percentages eg in controlling volume).


Granulatsynthese 01.wmv - ( 2:59 Min / 5.5MB )
Granulatsynthese 02.wmv - ( 4:34 Min / 8.5MB )
Granulatsynthese 03 - Mixed.wmv - ( 4:19 Min / 8MB )
Granulatsynthese Tour.wmv - ( 10 Min / 17MB )

GranulatSynthese Visual1 GranulatSynthese Visual2
GranulatSynthese Visuals

GranulatSynthese Fun
GranulatSynthese Multiple User Fun

Brief Description of the Project

GranulatSynthese derives its name from the vinyl granulate used as the main interface component. The granulate is both part of the projection surface and the interface itself. The user moves and forms the material, creating a landscape of granulate with hills and lakes. The resulting shapes control the generated sounds and visuals.

The visuals are projected from underneath the semi-transparent table surface and are transformed through the three-dimensional landscape. Waves pulse and move through the projection plane and the transparent granulate, corresponding to the generated sounds and giving the granulate a dynamic aspect. There is a synaesthetic relation between the haptic, visual, and auditory modalities.

The installation is highly intuitive to use, it invites to play with the granulate like in a sandbox. After the initial sensation, deeper aspects can be discovered by exploring the work, revealing its potential as a musical and visual device.

The landscape can be dynamically explored, a composition can be continually developed. On the other hand the interface has a certain persistancy to it, in that one can leave the landscape untouched as a pause for a lasting effect or in a physically saved state, to later return to it.


The work has its own presence, influencing the surrounding space and mood. There are different flavours of generated sounds and visuals. They set the frame for the user to explore and create compositions. Most flavours have a very meditative character. Users are often seen to pause and just take in the effect.

The installation has potential both as a stand-alone installation with a three-dimensional dynamic visual dimension combining both real and virtual content in a new way, and as tool for intuitive control of parameters in a computer. Current computer interfaces often lack easy usability and disregard the intuitive accessibility and haptic reward of real matter. The moving of the granulate adds not only a haptic dimension to playing with the installation but also generates sound in itself which adds to the composition.

This work was inspired by works like SoundVision (Beckhaus, Döring, Juckel, Schröder-Kroll, 2005) and Scrapple (G. Levin, 2005) as well by Japanese rock gardens and sand animation movies.

© 2007 Berghoff, Beckhaus, Schröder-Kroll.


[Virtual + 1] * Reality - Blending ``virtual´´, and ``normal´´ reality to enrich our experience

Steffi Beckhaus
In Book: "Virtual Realities". Dagstuhl Seminar 2008. Eds. Coquillart, S; Brunnett, G; Welch, G. Springer Verlag. ISBN: 978-3-211-99177-0, 2010

Zwischen real und digital: Intuitive, reichhaltige und freudvolle Schnittstellen

Beckhaus, S.
in Book: "Virtuelle Welten als Basistechnologie für Kunst und Kultur?", Bogen, Kuck, Schröter (Hrsg.), pp. 37-53, Reihe Medienumbrüche, Band 38, 2009, transcript Verlag, Bielefeld

[BSE08] Back to the sandbox - Playful Interaction with Granules Landscapes

Beckhaus S., Schröder-Kroll R., Berghoff M.
Proceedings of Tangible and Embedded Interaction (TEI)'08, p. 141-144, Bonn, 02/2008
File(s): Paper (pdf)

People involved:

Steffi Beckhaus, Roland Schröder-Kroll, Martin Berghoff