Body Brush: Marrying art and technology

Peter Ho

Art is art; technology is, well, technology. Their paths seldom cross, right? Not in the case of Body Brush, an advanced computer-aided tool pioneered by CityU's Professor Horace Ip to merge the two to produce stunning artistic results. 

Body Brush, in nutshell, is a computer technology that transforms body movements into real-time three-dimensional paintings. Driving this cross-disciplinary breakthrough are Professor Ip, Chair Professor and Head of Computer Science, and Hong Kong artist Mr Hay Young, with strong support from CityU's School of Creative Media.

The concept of a "body brush" was, with the aid of sophisticated computer image analysis technology, to capture and record the artist's motion and gestures in a 3-D space. The resulting painting is a 3-D image, seen through the use of special goggles. The artist, instead of painting with a brush and a palette, paints with his body, transforming movement into art.

The trick, Professor Ip explained, was to develop an infrared camera system that could capture the image into the computer with an infrared lighting system that doesn't interfere with human motion Another technical challenge was graphical rendering - that's to devise a means of allowing the computer to pinpoint where the artist is in the 3-D space, analyze his body posture, and transform this numerical information, in real time, into viewable colours, widths and movements of strokes.

Body Brush has recently won an Honorary Mention in the Interactive Art Category in Prix Ars Electronica 2002, the most prestigious festival on electronic media art. This is the first entry from Hong Kong to have received the award.

A Body Brush exhibition, open daily to all from 10am to 7pm, is at the CityU Gallery until end of December 2002.