The Digital Pet | Screen Space Experiment



October 2022

By: Divyanka Sadaphule, Nicky Guo, and Taylor Patterson


Context Research  

Related Work

  • For this experiment we wanted to focus on the exploration of colour and emotions.
  • Two artists that we’ve researched for inspiration are James Turrell and Jónsi, Hrafntinna. Both artists use the senses to emit emotions and evoke feelings from their installations.


James Turrell – Ganzfeld


This installation explores space and light, focusing on the effects of light on people’s moods as opposed to light just being there for illumination. James Turrell comes from a scientific background where he studied the ‘Ganzfeld Effect. In the Ganzfeld Effect, “your brain is starved of visual stimulation and fills in the blanks on its own. This changes your perception and causes unusual visual and auditory patterns” (Healthline, 2020). This is a perfect fit for our project as we aim to link colour to emotion.




Jónsi Hrafntinna – Obsidian

Located in the Art Gallery of Ontarpicture2io, this installation stood out the most with its use of sound to create deep vibrations. The installation is set in a room with little to no light and is a “Sixteen-channel sound installation, chandelier, speakers, subwoofers, carpet, fossilised amber scent.” (Art Gallery of Ontario, n.d.). Other senses such as smell and lighting are used in this installation as well. The idea is to ‘evoke the sensation of being inside a volcano’. To push our project even further, we want to incorporate the feeling of sound through vibrations.


The Impact of Colour Psychology on Emotions in Child Development  

Colours play an essential role when it comes to child development. It is an energy having wavelength and frequency. Colour psychology and its impact on a child’s learning abilities and behaviour is a much-researched subject. (Olesen, 2016)

Studies demonstrate the benefits of colours where brain development, creativity, productivity, and learning are concerned. With the help of colours, neural pathways in our brains are connected. The research was done that children wearing coloured goggles who were made to complete pegboard tests were found to solve the tests much faster when wearing goggles of their favourite colour. (Co, n.d.)

The reaction to the temperature of warm to cool colours was another matter, the warm colours in a way can calm certain students but they may excite others. Likewise, cool colours might stimulate one and relax another. In addition, research studies have also shown that with the help of colours we improve our learning ability and memory. The study concluded that red and blue colours are the best for enhancing cognitive skills and improving brain functions of children. (Renk Etkisi, 2017)


Historical Aspects  

Several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy, or the use of colours to heal. Chromotherapy is sometimes referred to as light therapy or colorology.

Chromotherapy & Phototherapy in Ancient Egypt: The ancient Egyptians used to use colour as a healing technique as many aspects of their lives. Colours were also associated with gods. With a strong focus on worshiping the sun, they believed that shining the rays of light through coloured crystals could penetrate the body and act as a treatment for ailments.

Chromotherapy in Ancient China: In Chinese culture, they connect colours with health. Chinese culture has always been keen on the connection of body-mind-earth-spirit, and it shows in the holistic Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) techniques that have transcended generations. It is believed that the colours you attract are alignments or imbalances with the cosmos and surrounding energy.

(JACUZZI Saunas – Clearlight Infrared SaunasTM, 2018)


Conceptual Framework

The initial idea behind the digital pet was to help children to learn and understand emotions with the help of colours. This can be also beneficial for students who have learning disabilities and ADHD who often experience distorted colour discrimination. The impact of different colours can simulate emotions ranging from comfort and warmth to hostility and anger which can help children to understand their emotional factors.

  • We created an interactive platform for people to explore two different states of emotion through sound, technology and colours.
  • Our digital pet represents two states of emotions, happy and angry. We chose colours and sound to match each of these emotions to enhance the effect of our emotional qualities of our digital pet.


Research Question

  • How do we map emotion to sound, through technology and interaction while formulating a playful experience where users utilise their visual and hearing senses?


Technical description & design considerations

Ideal Project Location

Ideally, we would like the digital pet to be in a room set up with a projector, speakers and a webcam, the digital pet will be projected onto a wall. The colour of the octopus will reflect on all 4 walls of the room, and there will be a song playing. The use of colour, sound and touch will working together to produce an immersive art installation.


While the demonstration shown in the images below only utilise two of the three proposed emotions, happy, and anger, the aim is to give users the opportunity to experience all three 3 separate emotions /positions with the below actions associated with each.The idea is to have an interaction-based end goal where our character is reactive. The sequence of events are shown below:

Position 1 : Static/Sad

The character will be floating, it will look sad, but it will be ready to welcome on-coming guests. The character’s position should be in the middle of the screen and it will be white on a black background with a rain cloud, rain, thunder and lightning on all 4 walls.

Emotion 1 : Happy

After 20 seconds of someone entering the room, the digital pet becomes happy and turns yellow. The background will change to sunshine and a bed of flowers floating. The user will be prompted to wave their hands up and down to be ‘happy with the octopus’. The waving of the arms will change the digital pet’s colour to a yellow orange gradient and will bounce up and down on the grid. The face will have a smile on it.

Emotion 2: Angry

After the user waves their arms 5 times, the octopus experiences a new emotion, anger. When our character is angry,  the background will change into clouds of smoke. The character will change colour to red, the head will grow and the room will vibrate with rage. The character will have a frown on its face and angry brows at this point.

Emotion 1 (Happy)                                






Emotion 2 (Angry)



Video of working code



D, William. “Ganzfeld – a Light and Space Exhibiton by James Turrell.” Design Is This, 27 Oct. 2015,

“Jónsi: Hrafntinna (Obsidian).” Art Gallery of Ontario,,places%20or%20trigger%20different%20memories.

Pietrangelo, Ann. “Ganzfeld Effect: Sensory Deprivation Hallucinations.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 15 Oct. 2020,

Healthline. (2020). Ganzfeld Effect: Sensory Deprivation Hallucinations. [online] Available at:

Art Gallery of Ontario. (n.d.). Jónsi: Hrafntinna (Obsidian). [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Oct. 2022].

Co, P. (n.d.). How To Improve Your Child’s Mood With Colors. [online] Parent Co. Available at:

Renk Etkisi (2017). Renk Etkisi | The Effect of Color | The Effects of Colors on Children. [online] Available at:

Olesen, J. (2016). Color Psychology: Child Behavior And Learning Through Colors. [online] Available at:

JACUZZI Saunas – Clearlight Infrared SaunasTM. (2018). The Ancient History of Color Light Therapy | Jacuzzi® Saunas Blog. [online] Available at: