Toby Schachman

Traditional computer programming tools promote an accounting-centric mindset. We keep track of values, move them around, add and multiply them. Our programming power is founded on doing accounting tricks.

Yet we have our most profound and creative ideas when we think spatially.

Recursive Drawing is an exploration of user interface ideas towards the development of a spatially-oriented programming environment.

Try it in the browser.

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Recursive Drawing was developed as part of my ITP thesis project, Alternative Programming Interfaces for Alternative Programmers.

It is implemented in Javascript using the Canvas API. Source code is available on GitHub. was featured as the top item on Hacker News on May 9, 2012.

Sphere of Water was built for Art Hack Day 2012.

Entirely analog, it is made from laser-cut acrylic mirrors, LED ribbon, water, and a water pump.

Read more about the concept and making of the piece.

Featured in TechCrunch, Fast Company, core77.

Haiku Wifi is a neighborhood bulletin board living in the wireless cloud.

A haiku message is displayed as wifi network IDs. When you connect to these networks, you are shown a web page which allows you to change the haiku.

Haiku Wifi is entirely self-contained on a hacked commodity wifi router.

Collaboration with Jonathan Dahan.

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Haiku Wifi was created for and exhibited at Art Hack Day at 319 Scholes. The installation consisted of the router itself, on a pedestal with instructions for visitors to check their wifi.

Full details for configuring the router and the source code are available on Github.

A selection of contributed haiku:

Morning sunset on seashore
Trampoline rising hart with u
Someday waves will wake us..

obtaining IP
address from haiku wifi
you are now connected.

Under my haiku
The frog map does say drop do
Now we are frozen

Hello bromo do
You have a nice face and hand
Bodies are so weird

Juliadam mosellera
Pizzarty brocolini

Lost in wifi sea.
Too much weed, how to haiku?
Im no good at this.

Im at an art show
It is full of artsy nerds
Im pretty happy

Myriad lighted LEDs
Unexplained art
Thousand kinds

Transpiration is an interactive projection in the courtyard of the landmark building at 240 Central Park South in New York City.

Twenty-seven branches on the tree represent the twenty-seven stories of the building. Four lines moving along the trunk track the movement of the elevators up and down the building in real time. The branches of the tree grow and shrink in response to the residents getting on and off floors in the building.

Collaboration with Jack Kalish, Gabriella Levine, and Emily Webster

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To track the elevators, a computer vision application is connected to the building's live security camera feed.

The computer vision application sends messages of elevator activity to a separate application which displays the tree visualization.

Both of these were made in Processing.

The source code is available on GitHub (Computer Vision, Visualization).

Gold Noise is the sound of one million pop songs all playing at once.

This is a series of works including: a Mac OS X Application, a website for listening to internet radio stations around the world, a video, several sound pieces, and a physical installation.

The installation consists of a circle of portable radios, each individually tuned to a separate station in the vicinity.

See the entire series at

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All of the tracks from Now That's What I Call Music Vol 37 playing at once.


A Mac OS X application that plays randomly selected mp3 files from the user's computer.

Download Gold Noise

The source code is available on GitHub.

Visual Gold Noise combines the top 10 music videos from YouTube/VEVO (as viewed on March 8, 2011).

The video content was composited by exploiting compression algorithms used to efficiently transmit video over the internet.

Time Travelers is an interactive video mirror installation.

A monitor shows a still image. As the viewer approaches the piece, her three dimensional form emerges on the screen as a subtle distortion in the image. Upon further exploration, we discover that the image is a time-lapse video, and that the viewer's distance from the piece is reflected as a time warp in the video.

Exhibited at The Paley Center for Media, February - May 2012.

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Time Travelers uses the Kinect 3D camera to capture a depth image of the viewer. This depth data is mapped pixel-by-pixel to time on a source video. The closer the viewer is to the camera, the later in time is the video.

Time Travelers was created in openFrameworks. Source code is available on GitHub.

Infinite Sympathy is a sculpture consisting of a dual kaleidoscope—a kaleidoscope with an eye opening on each end.

It is mounted on a table between two chairs, inviting two viewers/subjects to simultaneously look through and see each other's eye reflected into infinity.

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The kaleidoscope consists of three mirrors within a brass tube. It is mounted to the table with steel struts.

LEDs line the inside of the kaleidoscope on either end. These LEDs illuminate the viewers' eyes.

The Digital Kaleidoscope is a physical kaleidoscope coupled with a custom-designed iPhone app.

The iPhone is slipped into a sleeve at the end of the kaleidoscope. The user looks through the eyehole to see a geometric animation which is reflected by the kaleidoscope onto an infinite plane.

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The iPhone app is sensitive to motion and the attaching mechanism spins freely on the kaleidoscope tube.

As the user spins the iPhone attachment, the animation changes in response.

The iPhone app was created using openFrameworks.

The kaleidoscope is constructed from laser-cut acrylic.

Advanced Enterprise Research Office is a 3D game where the space you're in is constantly transforming due to datamoshing.

Advanced Enterprise Research Office was produced in collaboration with Bryan Newbold for the 2010 Global Game Jam.

The Global Game Jam is a worldwide, 48-hour game making marathon. The theme for the 2010 jam was deception.

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Datamoshing is an effect that exploits video compression algorithms to distort an image. In general, video compression algorithms will encode the entire image of the first frame of a video. Then, each subsequent frame will be encoded as its difference from the previous frame. The datamoshing effect is created by applying these frame difference instructions to an image that is not the original first frame.

We made the game by altering the open source Quake 3 engine ioquake3. Video from this was fed in real-time to Quartz Composer and composited using Tom Butterworth's Datamosh Plugin.

Details and development documentation can be found here.

In late 2006 I began producing web-based prototypes for a next-generation Intelligence Community workstation envisioned by Ted Goranson. We grew this work into a 7-person research group with numerous outside consultants. This work was funded by Earl Industries, the largest privately-owned US Navy contractor.

I managed a team of 4 programmers responsible for implementing prototypes and explanatory demos based on Ted's user interface and knowledge representation research.

SubProfile was an early social network implemented as a web-based add-on for AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).

At its height, SubProfile had over 3 million registered users and over 7 million monthly unique visitors.

It was one of the top ten most visited websites by teenagers in 2002 (Nielsen/NetRatings).

Co-founded with Roger Lee.

I am an artist and programmer with a background in mathematics. I have worked in the contexts of internet startup culture, Hollywood 3D animation, exploring perception through interactive art, and teaching computers to understand stories.

My current focus is creating alternative interfaces for programming computers. These interfaces are targeted at alternative programmers, artists and creative explorers with non-technical backgrounds.

Read more about my current interests on my blog, or get up-to-the-minute thoughts on my twitter.

I graduated in 2006 from MIT with a bachelor's degree in Mathematics with Computer Science. I received my master's degree in 2012 from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU.

Thank you for visiting my website!