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Flapping Toasters invites users to gesturally embody the “Flying Toaster” popularized in the screen saver collection After Dark published by Berkeley Systems in the 1980s.

The system uses the Kinect depth camera to track the pose of participants, and translates their gestures into the motion and behavior of a toaster displayed on-screen. Upon stepping into the Kinect’s field of view, the participant is assigned control of an on-screen toaster. Participants must flap their arms at a specific cadence to maintain the toasters altitude, and may also clap their hands to cue the release of toast. Tilting both arms dramatically to the left or right (in the style of the Hipmunk loading animation) will invoke a barrel roll

Multiple participants may join the same Flapping Toasters session simply by stepping in front of the Kinect. Each will take control of a discrete toaster.

In addition to being fun, the project indulges in the absurd gesticulatory tropes often present as a default mode of interaction with media art. Also, the reframing of a beloved screen saver as media art emphasizes the uncomfortable adjacency between art’s pretensions and the guileless whimsy of screen savers.

Additional notes on process and implementation are available in a related post.




  • Custom software
  • Depth Camera (Microsoft Kinect)

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