Face Palm

Fall 2018

Project Brief

An interactive installation work powered by Processing and OpenCV.

Face & Palm is an interactive installation that projects the user’s face onto his/her hands. It is intended to simulate the interaction of looking down on reflective surfaces with projection mapping on hands. The user will be immersed in the surreal experience of the on-hand mirroring effect.

Designed & Implemented by Yufeng Zhao.
Instructed by Aaron Sherwood.

Done in Fall 2018 for NYU Abu Dhabi Interactive Media Program.

Showcased at Art and Design Education: FutureLab in West Bund Art Center, Shanghai, 2019.

Design Research

An interactive installation of video mirror is composed by the choice of visual effects and the dedicated medium of mirror.

Referenced works are mainly from Daniel Rozin’s art pieces for his renowned dedication in this field.

Click on the referenced images to view the source.

My goal of this project is to implement a brand new human-mirror relationship, a new way people can look at themsleves.

Video mirror projects are often straightforward and effective, because it mimics an actual mirror with digital visuals which people would find unusual and intriguing.

Daniel Rozin is an expert in interactive installations of mirrors. Rozin divides them into two categories — mechanical mirrors and software mirrors

His mechanical mirrors often utilize a light source, any type of material to reflect the light, and motors to control them. Each of the material piece represents a pixel in the mirrored image by tilting its angle to reflect different amount of light.

Moving mechanical parts require a serious amount of engineering and have its own charm. It is always amazing to see how physical parts are aligned so precisely to create an artistic and yet simple effect. 

Rozin’s mechanical materials have covered wood pieces, trash, stuffed penguins, and even small mirrors. The rationale behind the adoption of certain materials gives the tone of the artwork. For example, the trash mirror piece “suggests that we are reflected in what we discard”. The metaphor of a mirror can blend with the significance of the selected material.

Software mirrors, on the other hand, are the digital reconstruction of the mirrored image, shown on a screen or a projection. Computational analysis to the image is adopted to extract featurescreate abstractions, and implement a certain aesthetics. Obviously, the form factor has its limitation in terms of audience engagement — unlike the mechanical mirrors, the screen does not blend in with the physical world well, somehow separating the audience from the piece.  

Design Conclusion

The mechanical mirror is more engaging for its by nature physical form and metaphorical incorporation of material, but the engineering required is rather complex.

The software mirror is effective for its novel reconstruction of the human presence and yet less engaging due to its less responsive perspective change and digital latency.

A fusion of two can be a great approach, which includes both physical parts and digital visual effects. 

Manipulating projectior light with physical mapping and digital image processing is my take of potential form.

Concept Development

Face & Palm is aimed to make the audience’s hands into mirrors which reflect their faces seamlessly.

The seamlessness is acomplished by precise projection mapping onto the palm with which the audience’s face distorts as the palm folds.

Concept Mindmap


This visual is powered by Processing (OpenCV) and done using two webcams and a pico projector.

The installation is made with Manfrotto metal clips, a cabinet and a piece of rough black fabric on top as table cloth.

The installation was exhibited at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Center. Check it out on Youtube.

Data Flow of Final Implementation

Testing Face Detection & Masking

Early Prototype of Projection Mapping

Assembling and Calibrating the Installation

Showcased at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Center

Showcased at Art and Design Education: FutureLab

Other works

Using Format