Monthly Archives: April 2016

Enchanted Object: Magic Mirror

For this weeks assignment, I decided to combine my previous knowledge from my pepper’s ghost project with a new idea. I decided to create the magic mirror from Shrek.

first I searched for quite a while for a rigged face online. Strangely, it took many hours to do this, and before I found one I actually had resorted to modeling a face from scratch in Maya. Eventually however, I did fine one on It was a robot head though, so I had to do quite a bit of modeling on an already rigged head. (Which is very dangerous to do).

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With a reference picture from a film segment I found on youtube, I started modeling the face of the mask by deleting unnecessary parts of the robot head and moving each vertex of the mesh one by one as carefully as possible. After messing up once and decoupling the model from the rigging, I started over and was able to finish a nicely modeled Mask.

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After this I recorded video of me acting out yes and no answers to questions. I decided to start with three different voice options for possible questions, yes, no, and maybe.

The next step after recording was converting the video into tiff image sequences, which I used Premiere to export as. And then imported the video as an image file sequence of tiffs into Maya to use as a background in order to animate the mask on top.

After everything was animated, the next step was rendering. I rendered all the answers with mental ray in Maya and exported them as video through FCheck. I then recombined the sound back into the videos using Premiere by taking out the old film footage of myself and replacing it with the new mask movies. All the videos  were ready for playing. Now for the effect

To create the magic mirror, I overplayed a half silvered mirror on top of my laptop screen. Since only light from one side of a mirror will be passing through at a time, this give the effect of it being a mirror but also showing the face from behind the glass. I created a powerpoint presentation that I could control with a hidden bluetooth keyboard while watching my users. I would tell them to say “mirror mirror” in order to make the mirror appear. I had all the videos set to play automatically so everything went generally smoothly as long as the user asked a yes or no question. After the user had asked their question I would just continue the presentation with an answer.

Below is the final rendered clips of the answers. More footage will soon be uploaded of a user actually using the program. But for now I’ve kept the half silvered mirror with Dan for safe keeping.


My final project will build off of this so hopefully it will be even more exciting! I want a live user to be able to speak through the mask to answer questions. More on this to come later 🙂

Big Box of Bigness – How to Blow Something Up



So you want to make something big? Whether you’re going through a rough breakup and wish your chocolate bar was twice your size, or you have a savior complex and wish to end world hunger with a single fish and a lone loaf of bread, the ability to make anything grow in scale would undeniably useful. The world of science would be abound with antithetically fantastic voyages, GMOs would yield to DMO’s (Dimensionally modified organisms), and Frank Gehry would finally be out of a job, but how would we bring this wonderful reality about?

Back to Basics

What muggle technology makes things big? Microscopes!

What’s the difference between what a microscope does, and what Ant-man Giant-man does? The third dimension.

Luckily, a Strange man taught me some perceptual hoo-doo that allows me to essentially add dimension together, compositing a few two-dimensional realities to synthesize the illusion of an obscured third.

Test Room #1 - Backend Interface

Unfortunately the same man failed to tech me how to magically capture two dimensional recording, so for that part I am restricted to muggle technology.

Dimensional Synthesis Error – Universal Bus Controller (Code 43)

Magic is easy, technology is a bit harder. As it turns out creating new dimensions is all about your hardware – specifically the capacity of your USB bus controllers. Now, obviously there are easier solutions for processing unholy amounts of video information, but Blackmagic involves delving into the dark arts and truckloads of cash.

(Updates to follow)

Microfilming Apparatus

Technology Development


Side Effects May Include: Pinching (Dismemberment), Dual Personality Syndrome, and/or Murder

For those of you looking for a once-a-day solution for natural enhancement, this is not the enchanted object you are looking for. Aside from being fundamentally different from the Engorgement Charm of the Potter-verse – which increases the amount of something without increasing the quantity – this magic box has the unique quirk of copying, and displacing the objects it enlarges. BYO suicide tank.

Suicide tanks that enabled the teleportation “illusion” featured in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige

The idea is simple enough, a spell to make something bigger. Yet somewhere along the way it all went horribly sideways, and when you’re already so invested in breaking the laws of nature it’s all too easy not to stop yourself when you finally realize you’ve gone. too. far.


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Deceptive Jail

Webcams give the delusion of transporting a viewer to a new location by displaying a site in real-time with high-resolution and continuous motion.  When examining a site in person, however, a viewer expects to smell the surrounding airs.  Unfortunately, webcams by themselves do not provide this immersive experience.  As a means to both tackle this challenge of heightening sensations with webcams and devise a system to fool criminals, I built a small jail cell that included both visual and olfactory perceptions.  The intent is to constantly change a prisoner’s apparent location, making the prisoner disoriented and confused.  Guards may move the prisoner from the cell to a motion simulator for a multitude of hours to trick that prisoner into believing that travel is occurring.  Under fatigue, prisoners are more likely to be cooperative and divulge information concerning the truths about crimes they committed or the whereabouts/upcoming plans of their criminal partners.  As a last measure, guards could use a webcam of the prisoner’s home, accompanied with appropriate smells, and say to the prisoner, “Tell us everything you know, and we’ll let you go home.”  Having tricked the prisoner into believing the deception, the presentation of the homeland will evoke powerful emotions that will further break that prisoner down.

The jail was built out of nine jigsaw-shaped exercise mats that fitted together nicely on the sides.  A picture of the constructed cell is shown below.  Two holes were cut on one of the mats.  The larger hole was a 25 cm by 15 cm rectangle, sized for my computer screen, in which the webcam would be shown.  To give the appearance of a jail, I cut out some of the mat material and made three short bars and spread these out over this viewing window.  The smaller hole was a thin 16 cm by 3 cm rectangle for the odors to travel through.  Additionally, I positioned a small wooden dowel rod for support on the top mat and also taped down some of the outside connected sections with silver duct tape to prohibit the mats from sliding apart.


To funnel scents through the small hole, I heated water with a Vick’s humidifier and placed several drops of fragrances in the humidifier’s basin.  Steam then rose from the humidifier with the odor of the fragrance.  I was fortunate to find a tall metal piece in the garbage, which was employed as a funnel.  I connected a section of a pizza box to the bottom of this funnel with silver duct tape, applying tape across the entire section to shield it from the moist steam of the humidifier.  A hole the size of the humidifier’s opening was cut out on the pizza box section for the steam to exit.  The system was constructed in the room seen in the above picture.  The measurements were taken such that the humidifier rested on the remainder of the pizza box to prop the funnel up high enough to reach the small hole, as shown below.


For completeness, the entire system, both the jail cell on the left and the humidifier/funnel sub-system on the right, is pictured below.  Notice also the laptop computer with its screen flipped around slid against the viewing window to display the webcam.

Whole System

Two different sites were tested with appropriate fragrances; one was a forest scene and the other was an ocean scene.  The link for the webcam of the forest scene is:

The link for the webcam of the ocean scene is:

For the forest scene, a Eucalyptus fragrance was placed in the humidifier’s basin.  For the ocean scene, the fragrance added was Waikiki Beach Coconut.  The picture below shows the two fragrances; Eucalyptus is on the left and Waikiki Beach Coconut is on the right.


The next two pictures show webcam images inside the jail of the two scenes; the first is the forest scene and the second is the ocean scene.

Forest scene

Ocean scene

Additionally, I took video recordings of the process of applying the fragrances and watching the webcams.  The forest webcam is fairly static, but while watching the ocean webcam, one can clearly see the waves moving continuously.  The first video below shows the forest scene and the second shows the ocean scene.



A large challenge while testing my system was the excessive moisture buildup from the humidifier, especially around my laptop.  This issue was remedied by applying paper towels and aluminum foil under my laptop for protection.  However, the wall of the cell became sufficiently drenched after about ten minutes of operation.  One possible improvement of the system is to concoct my own fragrances to make the smells as realistic as possible.  For example, for the scent associated with the ocean, I might blend together the juices from canned tuna fish together with salt and sand.  It would certainly prove quite torturous for a prisoner to suffer through this magical potion.

Racial Camouflage

For this weeks project, I did one small experiment and one larger one.

The Maxi-Pad Wallet


I found this idea online a long time ago and I wanted to test it out. To create this wallet, I found an unused a large maxi-pad and removed the pad, but kept the wrapper. I then added some paper inside to hold the money, and added some tape to put under the flap to hold it together. This made a wallet that held money tight but camouflaged it to look exactly like a pad. I wanted to see if anyone would actually believe it though. After handing it to some of my (especially male) friends, I found it extremely effective. My guy friends didn’t even want to touch it while my girl friends didn’t seem to care, it looked like a regular pad. The only flaw to this design could be that I might accidentally throw it away!


Racial Profiling Camouflage

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This was my main experiment since I personally find racial profiling to be a very big current problem. Since I am Japanese, Indian, Belgian and Spanish, not many people know what my ethnicity is on site. Not only this, but also depending on the season I wear a completely different set of colored make up. So I already had all the supplies I needed to wear as many types of skin color I could just by using my year-round stock of make up! The goal of my camouflage was to mask my ethnicity, so that no one who did not know me would know what race I was. I researched what facial features were most defining in determining what race a person may be and found that the eyebrows, nose, eye shape, mouth and facial structure all contribute to the appearance of a race. With this in mind, I experimented… I placed black along my eyebrows so it was very difficult to see what shape they are. I also placed black around my nose so from farther away, it would be hard to see the shape and size. I also pattered the stripes in a swoop fashion, to obscure my facial structure. There wasn’t much I could do for the mouth and the eyes. So I did my best with blacking out one eye, and making the other as light as possible, along with placing stripes down my mouth. I also places a robe around my head and neck, so it was impossible to see another skin tone and what hair I had. I suppose this could also be accomplished with a hat and a scarf or a hoodie. After showing this design to my friends they all freaked out, they couldn’t even tell it was me! After presenting this design in class, my professors suggest I upload it through my Facebook account to see if it could tell that it was me. Turns out it couldn’t! Facebook’s facial recognition algorithms couldn’t even tell that this was me! So in conclusion, I think this pattern was a success. Cons include, lots of makeup, strange looks. However pros include looking like a star wars character for a day!

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