tfS ( ᐛ )و

Beauty and The Beep

Year: 2024
Format: HD Video, Unity Recording
Duration: 13 min 40 sec
Audio: Stereo Sound
Produced with the support of Stimuleringsfonds NL and the Canadian Center for Architecture.

Exploring the consequences of cohabiting with computer vision, Simone Niquille’s Beauty and The Beep follows Bertil, a chair that is trying to find a place to sit. Inspired by the enchanted household objects from the fairy tale Beauty and The Beast, the film is set in a suburban home instead of a castle, and the beast has been replaced by the continuous notification sounds of smart devices. In the film, Bertil navigates through a virtual house — a recreation of the model home built by the robotics company Boston Dynamics in 2016 to showcase their robot dog SpotMini.

Wondering who would buy an automated mechanical pet to assist and live in their home, the film explores Boston Dynamics' datafied definition of a home or what it takes for such a personal and intimate space to be standardised for computer vision to function. Bertil — a synthetic chair inspired by IKEA’s first 3D rendered image for their print catalogue, which marked their shift to rendered imagery — wanders through this seemingly simple virtual home, interacting with its objects, in search of some answers. Navigating the home for Bertil is no easy task, as they encounter the daily life noise that is littered throughout the home. A banana trips them, they cannot sit, they get stuck on a treadmill and why is there a toy pony on the floor? Revealing how the impossibility of gathering training data in the home has led to the widespread use of synthetic data, Bertil reminds us that the home is private and not for capture.

Related writing

↑

↑ "Walker Brain" machine learning training in Unity.

↑ Learning to slide on the tray.

↑ Learning to slide on the tray.

↑

↑ "Treadmill Brain" machine learning training in Unity.

↑

↑ "Climber 🧠"

Credits

⦁ Scenography & Camera: Simone C Niquille
⦁ Creative Technologist: Cailean Finn
⦁ Music: Jeff Witscher, New Furniture Music (after Erik Satie) & Pipe Dream (rewired)
⦁ Field Recordings: Klankbeeld
⦁ Typefaces:
AO System, Gailė Pranckūnaitė &
FA_EZFCIHEVGZ, full auto foundry
⦁ Voices: Oliver Lucas & Alexa, Amazon Echo

On flatpack furniture and .zip folders

the simulation of domestic space

This story begins in 2006, the year furniture company IKEA featured a digital rendering of a product for the first time in its globally distributed print catalogue: an image of the ubiquitous Bertil chair in birch. Until then, all products and scenes depicted in the catalogue’s pages were painstakingly staged and photographed. As product colours, choice of appliances, and object arrangements differ depending on the country of publication, some room setups needed to be photographed multiple times for the various versions. Staging the catalogue virtually simplified the global versioning for IKEA’s in-house communications team—switching a bathtub for a shower would now be a matter of a click rather than an entire scene rebuild. This transition to rendered images was a logical step for efficiency, yet it depended on the ability of computer-generated imagery to go unnoticed. The publication of the digital Bertil proved to be a success: the rendered image went unnoticed. Customers looking through the IKEA catalogue could only see the catalogue, not the process behind its creation.

Computer generated imagery (CGI) has come a long way from its jagged beginning. While early computer graphics were noticeably comprised of polygonal structures, the technology’s current capabilities can produce images indistinguishable from photography. Photorealistic renders, or constructed images that simulate reality to the point of deception, are used in architectural visualization as much as in Hollywood special effects. Since modeling the Bertil chair in 2006, IKEA has amassed a digital library of approximately thirty-seven thousand products, ten thousand materials, and twelve thousand textures. In 2016, some of IKEA’s brochures featured 95% 3D graphics, some entirely digital renders, while others a composite of photography and 3D graphics.1 Whether photographed or rendered, IKEA is careful to make its catalogue scenes look lived-in, as if they document someone’s life rather than simply displaying a product. For this purpose, its digital library includes “life-assets” such as bananas, cats, and plants that are sprinkled into the digital product setups. IKEA’s challenge in transitioning its visual communication to digital imagery was to do so without it being apparent to the customer. Ideally, it would produce mundane CGI: everyday images that do not pose any questions. Documentation rather than installation; of course someone lives here.

‘IKEA is careful to make its catalogue scenes look lived-in...its digital library includes “life-assets” such as bananas, cats, and plants that are sprinkled into the digital product setups.’

technoflesh Studio ( ᐛ )و

Design & Research practice
of Simone C Niquille

Located in Amsterdam, NL

CONTACT
studio at technofle.sh

INSTAGRAM
@technoflesh