Responses by Rare Volume
Background: Together with cosmetics brand SK-II’s parent company Procter & Gamble, agency HUGE was set to disrupt the conventions of the beauty industry by creating a pop-up smart store for SK-II in one of Tokyo’s trendiest neighborhoods. Rare Volume was tasked to create a “wow” moment to draw passersby into the location. The original task was to create one installation, but due its success, this turned into many versions placed throughout Asia and the US.
Reasoning: The smart store was focused on selling facial care products, so the client asked us to create SK-II Future X Smart Store, an installation experience that exclusively used visitors’ faces as the point of interaction. Using face-tracking technology, we developed custom software that triggers unique particle effects when users hit one of seven facial expressions: happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger, disgust and neutrality.
Challenges: From a software perspective, one of the most challenging aspects was implementing a particle physics simulation that was capable of incorporating head and face tracking from three separate high frame rate cameras simultaneously. In particular, these cameras’ individual frame rates could vary in response to differing lighting conditions, so the simulation had to be programmed to receive and process these inputs asynchronously across many threads and use a hybrid CPU/GPU approach.
Favorite details: As a studio, our work has always aimed to obscure the seams between broadcast-quality visual design and interactive experience without depreciating the potential of either practice. Although it didn’t come without its hurdles, we’re proud that in the end, we were able to honor the original vision presented to SK-II, through the hard work and close collaboration of our design and development teams.
Visual influences: In the earlier stages of design development, we enjoyed digging into research around color psychology in order to create appropriate visual cues for each of the seven emotions. Once we locked in the seven colorways, we created unique motion languages for each state—first in after effects, then 3-D software and finally code.
Specific demands: For each of the six locations, the installation was customized to complement distinct interior and exterior design as well as varying physical footprints. An outdoor installation during Singapore’s monsoon season necessitated special technical consideration for waterproofing. Also, the lighting conditions varied from peak noonday sun to moonless night, and was further complicated by bright storefront lights’ presence in the framing. We ended up developing custom camera auto-exposure algorithms directly incorporating the head-tracking data in order to overcome these challenges.