THE IMAGE PROCESSOR
The image processor is an example of a design tool learning machine. It was constructed under a grant for innovation in the undergraduate program development of U.I.C.C. (University of Illinois at Chicago Circle). It is partially completed but is functioning as of this writing. The explicit content of the instruction performed by this machine is perceptual learning related to two dimensional kinetic images. The implicit content is the structure of linear, as opposed to digital electronic generalized machines, analogue computation, and video technology.
The video image-processor is a device which accents naturalistic images, modifies and combines them in complex ways, and displays or stores the result. A television camera, film train, video tape recorder, or similar device can be used to encode moving images into a form which the image processor accepts. A television monitor decodes the signal and displays the modified image. The processor itself is composed of modules which do specific modifications of the image. The instrument is programmed by routing the image through various processing modules and then out to a monitor or tape recorder. The modules are designed to maximize the possibility of interconnection, thereby, maximizing the number of possible modifications of the image.
This description of the image processor may sound like a sophisticated special effects board in a television station. There is, of course, a similarity. A good analogy would be to compare a desk calculator to a general purpose digital computer. Both the desk calculator and computer can add and subtract numbers. The computer, however, can also store a program (which it executes in time) and more importantly can modify its program based on results of the program. The image processor has, in addition, the power to modify images, the power to execute a. program in time, and more importantly to modify what modification is done based on the content of the input image and the program. The image processor is a general purpose machine and the special effects generator is not.
STUDENTS AND THE IMAGE PROCESSOR
The student usually comes to the image processor with the idea of doing an "art" video tape. The instrument is quite intuitive but not completely self explanatory. (The I.P. needs some improvement on this score) A one hour video tape is usually sufficient to allow a student to start exploring the possibilities of the machine. After a student begins to operate the device, the interaction with the device's internal logic is sufficient instruction, and the immediate feedback is sufficient motivation to keep the student exploring for quite awhile. As of this writing the I.P. has been operating for about 4 months. About 7 people have been introduced to it in detail. (Formal introduction of the I.P.into the curricumul will be made this fall.) Of the 7 people exposed to the image processor, 5 including myself, can be described adequately as being addicted.
What does someone learn using the I.P.? Primarily, a person learns about how images change in time, by electronically disecting and reassembling images. But what a person learns in most detail will depend on what he tried to do with the machine. He might, for instance, explore some relationships between sound and images by using sound inputs to the processor to control image transformations, or he might use an image to control some aspect of sound. The student might instead explore the feeling of and the effects of viewing images controlled by his heart beat or brain waves. He might even explore images combined in a variety of ways. Because the image processor is a generalized machine and because it is designed to interface with other machines, essentially, it can be used to explore an indefinite range of events in the universe.