Thoughtworks Arts

Perception iO

Project: Winter 2019

Project Team

Perception iO (Input Output) is an immersive interactive film project exploring the intersection of AI, bias, neuroscience, behavioral psychology, film, facial emotional expression analysis, social justice, and the future of law enforcement.

Project video of Perception iO

Perception iO uses facial expression recognition to analyze reactions as viewers watch from the perspective of a police officer’s body cam.

The film runs through different scenarios of policing, portraying interactions with both black and white civilians. How the viewer responds to the presented scenarios triggers different outcomes in a branching narrative. The immersive experience explores ways in which a person’s gaze and emotional reactions influence their perception of reality.

A woman watching the video experience in a dark room
Installation view from the Face Values exhibition

Participants are invited to analyze the data calibrated from their interaction with the film, to consider how AI technology registers their behavior, and how human behavior is affected by implicit bias.

Branching Storylines

Karen teamed up with a dedicated group of programmers at Thoughtworks to develop EmoPy and build the Perception iO system. The project is an evolution of RIOT, an installation artwork using facial recognition that Karen developed during her residency at Thoughtworks Arts.

Like RIOT, Perception iO aims to expand access to AI technologies already in use today.

Commercial companies usually keep the algorithms and datasets they use for facial recognition and emotion detection under wraps. As an artist, Palmer wants people to become aware of the privacy and human rights concerns around this and put the technology into their hands in order to democratise AI.
— WIRED, March 7th 2020

Thoughtworks developers guided the technical development, by increasing the accuracy of EmoPy, and creating a new branching logic system which allows for multiple modalities of experience with different film characters. The developers designed the installation code and set up the prototype at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum ready for public viewing.

Exhibitions and Publications

A video still showing a police officer holding a gun and a woman in distress
A still shot from Perception iO

Perception iO was commissioned for the 2019-2020 exhibition Face Values: Exploring Artificial Intelligence at The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. The project was also part of the exhibitions In Kepler’s Gardens at Ars Electronica, and Expo Starts Prize à Bozar, and Karen and the Thoughtworks team receieved an honorable mention as part of STARTS Prize 2020.

Perception iO has been reviewed in Wired, BioMetric Update, Immersive Futures and the Smithsonian Magazine.

The cover of the edition of WIRED featuring Karen’s work
Wired article on Karen Palmer creating Perception iO