Video Documentation

1' 43'' Teaser 


Juried Selection 

The 23rd Japan Media Arts Festival


IEEE VIS art program 2020 


Art Concept Direction 

Virtual Reality Worldbuilding 

​Visualization & Sound Design

Creative Coding

+ Weidi Zhang

Intelligent System Design

Creative Coding

+ Donghao Ren 

Humans and machines are in constant conversations. Humans start the dialogue by using programming languages that will be compiled to binary digits that machines can interpret. However, Intelligent machines today are not only observers of the world, but they also make their own decisions. If A.I imitates human beings to create a symbolic system to communicate based on their own understandings of the universe and start to actively interact with us, how will this recontextualize and redefine our coexistence in this intertwined reality?

This VR project provides an immersive exploration in semantic human-machine reality generated by an intelligent system in real-time through perceiving the real-world via a camera [located in the exhibition space]. Inspired by Cangjie, an ancient Chinese legendary historian (c.2650 BCE), invented Chinese characters based on the characteristics of everything on the earth, we trained a neural network that we call Cangjie, to learn the constructions and principles of over 9000 Chinese characters. It perceives the surroundings and transforms it into a collage of unique symbols made of Chinese strokes. The symbols produced through the lens of Cangjie, tangled with the imagery captured by the camera are visualized algorithmically as abstract pixelated semiotics, continuously evolving and compositing an ever-changing poetic virtual reality. Cangjie is not only a conceptual response to the tension and fragility in the coexistence of humans and machines but also an artistic imagination of our future language in this artificial intelligent era.

The Early Chinese Characters 

Designed Based On The Characteristic Of Everything On Earth

Chinese Legendary Character, Cangjie, Observes Surroundings and Creates Symbols For Everything

Cangjie                      倉   頡

Intelligent System Map

User Interaction

The user interaction is realized in two ways.

Firstly, a camera is set in the center of the installation and observes the surroundings. The audiences in the installation will be captured by the camera as live streaming that is processed by Cangjie (the trained neural network) which generates the semiotic visualizations.

Secondly, live streaming of the surroundings (including audiences) will be implemented as textures in the VR space and the RGBA channels of this live stream will determine the particle movements and the ink flow directions in the virtual space. The audiences will be able to see themselves captured as textures in VR space and their movements will alter the appearance of the virtual world.

Cangjie is not only a conceptual response to the tension and fragility in the coexistence of humans and machines but also an artistic imagined expression of a future language that reflects on ancient truths, a way to evoke enchantment in this artificial intelligence era. The interactivity of this intelligent visualization prioritizes ambiguity and tension that exist between the actual and the virtual, machinic vision and human perception, and past and future. By providing a visualization of the novel symbols generated by the machine, the human-machine interaction sustains users’ curiosity and blurs the boundary between precise data-driven design and pure artistic experience.

Teaser 25 secs


The methodology of Cangjie consists of three aspects: 1. Intelligent System Design. To convert images to Chinese strokes we use unsupervised learning techniques to model Chinese characters. The learned model is then used to create novel characters based on details in the images. We trained a neural network (named Cangjie) to learn from vector stroke data of over 9000 Chinese characters. After successful training, the discriminator and the encoder/generator reach a stable state like a  Nash Equilibrium. The network learns a low-dimensional latent representation of these images. Thus, when the live streaming of the real world is processed by the system, the encoder network can produce its latent representation. Then the generator network can reconstruct the image and generate novel symbols based on the given latent representation. The novel symbols are constructed by Chinese strokes but they do not carry specific meanings.

2. Experimental Visualization Using Neural Network Generated Image Data. The image data is firstly manipulated with image processing techniques ( image differencing and alpha compositing ), filter design, and data transformation. Then we used OpenGL shading language (GLSL) to relocate the pixels from real-world texture to a position determined by the image generated by Cangjie. The data of RGBA channels of capture through live streaming will be used to control the movements of pixels. The goal is to create an effect like ink flow that is consistently writing new symbols that Cangjie generated in real-time based on the live streaming texture.

3. Spatial Visualization in Virtual Reality Space Using Image Data. The experimental visualization is used as data input to compose a virtual reality space. The data-driven world-building strategies mainly consist of two parts: 1. Algorithmic Virtual World Composition: multiple mathematical algorithms are implemented to create a world structure. 2. Texture Development: data-driven abstract patterns and forms are visualized to compose the world by dynamically using arrays of lines, points, curves, photogrammetry point clouds, image data-driven agency, and other image processing techniques. 

The described approaches result in the two interactive projections: 1. Experimental visualization of Cangjie writing novel symbols based on its interpretation of its surroundings. 2. A real-time VR projection of a virtual world constructed with the novel symbols Cangjie creates

All Rights Reserved. © 2020  Weidi Zhang