FEEL:CHAMELEON: An emotional algorithm video installation

It is a collaboration between artist Tina Gonsalves, social neuroscientist Chris Frith, emotion neuroscientist Hugo Critchley, affective computer scientists Rosalind Picard and Rana El Kaliouby. It brings together two world renowned institutions: The Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience (WDIN), where the artist is honorary Artist in Residence, and the Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, (MIT) where she is ‘Visiting Artist’. Curated by SCAN Media Arts Agency, the project will be exhibited extensively, and a corresponding catalogue will document the project.

Neuroscientific research will be finely integrated with innovative sensing technology creating an engaging art experience that empathically adapts to participants, leading them to a deeper personal understanding about innovations in biomedical science. For science, the work illustrates research in new ways, and the platform may evolve as a flexible research tool, exploring of social-emotional skills in human-machine interaction, informing psychophysiological neuroscience with the potential to generate abundant data relating to patterned emotional expressions. For the arts, the model and techniques may be applied to probe clinical disorders of social emotion including autism creating new experiences for new and under represented audiences. Moreover, the cross disciplinary foundation will lead to the building of more empathic interaction scenarios which may impact future display of media arts and museum displays, pushing further understanding how machines/art experiences can adjust with people to support learning, creativity, imagination, and motivation.

This project integrates the tools of biomedical science and affective computing, which are both seen with hope and fear. The interface design may lead to debate of how sensor technologies may infringe privacy of participants and ignite feelings of vulnerability. Simultaneously, the interface generates a framework for collaboration with the "audience”, using the feeling of ‘vulnerability’ to facilitate productive self-expression, and social awareness, enhancing public understanding of how new innovations in biomedical science can enhance communication and the understanding of empathy.

Orson Welles created panic when his radio theater broadcast The War of Worlds? Albert Bandura’s Bobo Doll experiments demonstrated that individuals learn aggressive responses from observing others. Emotional contagion is a significant feature of spectators' engagement with narrative fiction film (Amy Coplan). Emotional Contagion effects us moment to moment through the cultural, social, the personal, though as it is often unconscious, few people are actually aware of its impact on our everyday. CHAMELEON will achieve an illustrative power that would not be attained by conventional scientific or artistic endeavours. Seeing and interacting with CHAMELEON will allow viewers to study the effects of dynamic emotional contagion with in an immersive virtual context. Through participation, questions about the role of emotional contagion for the need for survival and adaptation to our environment, the use of emotional contagion in art and the use of mirror neurons (and other biological functions) in emotional contagion will be stimulated.


video file of the Chameleon Project April 2009

Chameleon on New Scientist, April 2007 (video)

Chameleon The Australian August 2007 (text)

Tina Gonsalves, Digicult 2008 (italian)

Chemeleon Project, Culture 24, April 2009

Chameleon Project, Natural History Museum, June 2009

Chameleon Project, Biopychology, April 2009


Summary of Project

After building the “Feel” Series, I conceptualized a more complex collaborative work, “Chameleon”, taking 24 months to produce. CHAMELEON is an interactive art installation driven by emotional expression of participants, illustrating how we infect each other with our emotions. “Chameleon” is built in a progression of prototypes, with the final version using mind reading technology (senses facial emotion expression.) video and emotional algorithms to assess, respond and provoke the emotional states of the audience. When participating in “Chameleon”, individuals become intimately connected and implicated into varying emotionally provocative and reflexive social interactions. Each experience of CHAMELEON will leave the participants with a further understanding of how their own non-verbal communications impact social groups, and guide the formation of empathy.