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‘Ghost’ installation traps visitors in an interactive snow storm

ghost-1 copy


Created by Thomas Eberwein / Thomas Traum and Tim Gfrerer, Ghost is an interactive installation of a snow storm, raging within an abandoned, barren landscape. Within this storm the visitor can make out a procession of human forms which seemingly try to find a way out. The bodies are remnants of the previous visitors, their ghosts, trapped in the hostile environment.

The scene is seen through a camera roaming over the landscape, with the environment transitioniong through a set of pre-defined moods. Landscape moods influence the intensity of the storm, the music, the fog colour and the sound effects. The scene may transition from intense, loud and aggressive storms to gentle, quiet snow flurries. When a visitor is detected, the camera moves towards them, choosing from a set of close up camera positions. If no visitors interact with the piece, the camera switches into wide shots of the landscape framing the captured ghosts within.


The installation was made using openFrameworks. The landscape and the character models were designed in 3D modelling software, whereas the bone-based character animations and the particle systems were created in code and largely written from scratch. The visitor’s skeletal movements are recorded using the open source OpenNI framework, and fed to the installation’s main app via OSC, where the movements are then blended, attenuated, constrained and committed to memory as an animated ghost. The general atmosphere –colour, wind speed, cloud, fog and snow density–  blend towards new presets upon the next musical beat. Custom GLSL shaders take care of bone-based character animation skinning and blending in real time to achieve the performance necessary to animate up to 100 ghost characters simultaneously. About 400 MB of skeletal animation data were collected, which will be re-used in future projects and iterations of Ghost.

Ghost was created at the end of Thomas Eberwein’s time as an interaction designer at the EPFL+ECAL Lab in Lausanne, Switzerland. It was created as a commission for the “Give Me More” exhibition by the EPFL+ECAL Lab at the Eyebeam gallery in NYC in Spring 2013. Music by Freefarm.

Project PageThomas TraumTim Gfrerer | Freefarm