aqua mentis

A sound driven interactive environment


Aqua Mentis is a multimedia installation, an interactive environment created to analyze and experiment in what way sounds and noises create the mental representation, the idea of the environment in which we are plunged… or believe to be plunged…


The target is to create a situation in which sounds and noises are the most important factors in the mental environment representation,is to create a habitat sphere trough the noises. But the produced sounds and noises not directly correspond to the real world perceived trough the other senses, such as sight, touch or smell, indeed are often in opposition. This is the most peculiar and particular aspect of the work.

figure a
. a water ripple effect with drip

The mechanism is very simple but really effective: a microphone is placed in a box on the floor of a room or of a circumstantiate place, in this way it is able to detect every ground vibrations. On the other hand the microphone is connected to a computer (for most sensibility and best results it’s better to use and intermediate amplifying system) which receives the sound signals. When the visitors walk trough the environment, every step produces a vibration on the floor and a little step noise: this vibration ad this noise are detected by the microphone and sent to the program running on a computer. The signal is analyzed and, if exceed a certain threshold, the program produces the noise of a step on a water surface, the volume of which is proportional to the vibration intensity. For a most realistic effect the step noise is chosen every time randomly from a pool of four sequences.

At the same time the program diffuses continuously some noise of water drip to create the atmosphere similar to cove or dungeon environment. To complete the effect the space must be dark, lighted only by the projection of some water ripple effect on the wall and ceiling. In the next version of the program this water glares will be interactive too, moving at every step of the users that produce a sound.

figure b. components and connections schema


In this way the visitors walk on a water surface that are not able to see, or in a different place from that suggested by the hearing. It create a strange decoupled effect, an estrangement sensation, perhaps a synesthetic atmosphere, because what tell a sense is different from what is perceived by the others, in a continuous play of deceits, refutations and contradictions.

In the same way it is possible to simulate other type of surface,such as snow or gravel, also at the same time in the same place, but the water surface effect is the most impressive.

The maximum immersion degree in this new environmental sphere is reachable covering the floor whit fog or smoke. In this way the user isn’t immediately able to see the real consistency of the floor he/she is walking on.

This interactive environment is realized in a very low cost and basic way: we use only one microphone, an amplifying system ad a self written computer application that run with no particular system requirements. Best result are reachable using more than one microphone for most sensibility, more speakers placed right or best quality sound sequences.

Programming: Flash MX, ActionScript 1.0
Audio: MP3

Elia Basso - design, code and installation
Mara Bertelli - audio production