Paper Oracle

After two days of various sound experiments, we developed the idea of paper characters for our final exploration. People wore masks made out of different paper materials and had their voice translated into a strange paper language. Due to audio persistent feedback with both a microphone and speaker inside each mask, we adapted the concept slightly – and the paper oracle was born.

While wearing a paper priest’s mask, anyone can ask the oracle questions, and it responds in a deep, rustling paper voice. To build the oracle we first modeled it in 3d and exported all of the surfaces to the laser cutter. We experimented with different textures and materials and chose white cardboard because of its combination of stability and color neutrality. Inside the oracle’s mouth we built a construction of seven small used speakers. The mouth and eyes contain one small light each.

The communication with the oracle happens through a microphone inside the priest’s mask. The signal is processed in Ableton Live and Max for Live where it is slowed down, reversed, and treated with reverb. The most important but also most challenging part was to program the custom Max for Live patch to detect the onset and end of a person’s question. The oracle waits for the suppliant to finish, then responds eerily, leaving it up to the listener to interpret the prophecy.