Nick Eyre

Visual Radio

Visual radio is an interactive art exhibit in the Olin College Library. It provides "immersive visual background noise", setting a mood with the excitement and intrigue of a journey. Sit back, watch, and enjoy.

Background & Concept

Slow TV refers to the "coverage of an ordinary event in its complete length". It forms a sort of visual furniture, providing something that can be engaged with without requiring complete attention.

Originally conceptualized by Andy Warhol, the modern evolution of Slow TV began with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation's coverage of the driver's eye view of a 7-hour train ride shown in its entirety and live coverage of a ship's 134-hour journey. The viewership for both events set record ratings on the NRK2 channel.

Visual Radio sets its own playlist and clips cannot be skipped. If opened on two screens, playback stays synchronized. By removing control from the viewer, Visual Radio fades into the background without requiring the user's attention.

The Physical

In the Olin library, Visual Radio has a permanent home within a bookshelf on the upper level. A single button advances to the next channel, allowing a patron to customize his or her environment upon entry.

Since we've installed Visual Radio, we’ve noticed people coming in to the library and just sitting down near it. It really sets a mood.

The Nitty Gritty

Videos on Visual Radio are streamed from Youtube. The app's server keeps track of what is currently playing on each of the channels and how much time has elapsed on each video. When you tune in, the server directs your computer to the right video and time so that you're watching the same programming as anybody else tuned in to the same channel.

Our physical kiosk in the library is built as a Chromebox connected to a TV and plugged into the wired network connection. We have an Arduino that emulates a keyboard, signaling a right arrow whenever the physical button is pressed. Note that streaming HD video uses quite a bit of bandwidth – on the order of 10 GB/day.


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