Interactive Video Kaleidoscope
1987, Karl Sims
This human-sized physical kaleidoscope creates colorized feedback patterns
from viewers' faces and hands. It was exhibited at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology in 1987, and was part of the SIGGRAPH 1988 Art Show in
Atlanta, Georgia. The kaleidoscope consists of three 6-foot long mirrors, a
video camera, two color monitors, and a computer controlled digital
colorizer. These are used to provide an interactive environment for
people to experiment with and create colorful moving images and
The diagram to the right illustrates paths taken by video and light.
The video camera points at the open end of the kaleidoscope so the
viewer is part of the image seen by the camera. The black and white
video signal from the camera is transformed into color video (red,
green, and blue) by a digital colorizer. Each of the 128 gray levels
are mapped into a different color. The colorization style is varied
periodically by a program running on an Apple II computer. The color
video is then displayed on two monitors, one a the far end of the
mirrors to create the kaleidoscopic effect, and one on the other side
of the viewer to create feedback. The image on the first monitor is
reflected back and forth many times by the mirrors giving the final
visual experience. Since the second monitor is in view of the camera,
but also displays what the camera sees, a feedback loop is created,
and various patterns and spirals can occur. The mirrors can also
physically rotate causing the entire kaleidoscopic image to slowly
Design and construction by Karl Sims
Video colorizer hardware by John Watlington
Mechanical consulting by Andy Ziegler
This project was made possible by a grant from the MIT Council for the Arts.
Back to other work by Karl Sims.
© 1987, Karl Sims, All rights reserved.