I Heard There Was a Secret Chord
A radio show hosted by a building
Buildings are not only made of bricks. They are also made of the emotions and stories of the people who lived in them. Amateur Intelligence Radio (AIR) is a “quasi-artificial” intelligence inhabiting a historical building. Contrary to the robotic voices heard in many transitory public spaces, the host of this installation transforms the environment by expressing its feelings in a daylong radio show.
Permanent Installation Since 2014
St Paul, Minnesota, USA
AIR was created in 2014 as a permanent installation for the main hall of Union Depot Station in Saint Paul. The goal of the project was to contribute to the revitalization of this historical landmark. Integrated into a transitory space where people rarely interact, AIR helps to break commuters social isolation. By telling their stories, the installation strengthens a sense of belonging and connects them to one another.
The robotic host of AIR reacts in real time to the life of the building: 24 hours a day, it broadcasts a variety of radio shows selected according to the weather, the trains’ arrivals and departures, local news and visitors, but also it’s mood.
AIR also allows the public to contribute to the radio show through a website. Whether it is to send a declaration of love, an apology, a birthday wish, or give advice, each participation influences the content and personality of the radio.
1. Five interactive stations allow visitors to plug their headphones in and listen to the building’s voice.
2. AIR expresses emotions and information
3. A website allows the public to broadcast their stories through AIR
AIR’s emotional state is naturally reflected in its voice. Pitch and speed were modulated in the voice’s synthesis software, and parameters were set for each of the 9 emotions. With some additional fine tuning, and the occasional yawn and sigh mixed in, AIR (hopefully) sounded more realistic. Besides using emotional states to sculpt its voice, conditional rules were also implemented for tying specific stories to specific emotions: happy stories for happy buildings.