SVEN: Surveillance Video Entertainment Network
aka "AI to the People"

by Amy Alexander, Wojciech Kosma, Vincent Rabaud
with Nikhil Rasiwasia and Jesse Gilbert
Production Assistants: Marilia Maschion, Annina Rüst, Cristyn Magnus

The project that asks the question: If computer vision technology can be used to detect when you look like a terrorist, criminal, or other "undesirable" - why not when you look like a rock star?


SVEN in original van performance configuration

SVEN in three-monitor installation configuration


SVEN (Surveillance Video Entertainment Network) is a system comprised of a camera, monitor, and two computers that can be set up in public places - especially in situations where a CCTV monitor might be expected. The software consists of a custom computer vision application that tracks pedestrians and detects their characteristics, and a real-time video processing application that receives this information and uses it to generate music-video like visuals from the live camera feed. The resulting video and audio are displayed on a monitor in the public space, interrupting the standard security camera type display each time a potential rock star is detected. The idea is to humorously examine and demystify concerns about surveillance and computer systems not in terms of being watched, but in terms of how the watching is being done - and how else it might be done if other people were at the wheel..

There's also the other side of the SVEN coin: when do rock stars look like you? We noticed that music video cinematography and editing often resembles surveillance footage. So in the spirit of reality TV, we programmed SVEN's cinematography algorithms to make surveillance music videos live...

SVEN the Installation

SVEN detecting rockstars in the corridors of the Whitney Museum in New York, Summer 2007.

SVAN: The SVEN Mobile Unit


<=== an actual SVAN

Video of an actual SVAN:
* Streamed from YouTube

If streaming doesn't work, download the video.

SVAN videos require Quicktime 7 (except from YouTube).

Sample Live Videos

Click the images to view the videos, or right click the download links below to save them. (The slow frame rate is due to the screen capture software used to make the sample videos - it actually runs pretty smoothly! Also - the audio is a lot more subtle in real live peoplespace. Video effects are by Wojciech. )

Video #1 (a suspicious pair):

Quicktime 4.8 MB - Download
Quicktime 14.5 MB - High Bandwidth Download
Video #2 (the joy of stalking):

Quicktime 1.4 MB - Download
Quicktime 2.2 MB - High Bandwidth Download

Video #3 (uptempo urban):

Quicktime 6.3 MB - Download
Quicktime 10.1 MB - High Bandwidth Download

Video #4 (the world is full of creeps and weirdos):

Quicktime 3.7 MB - Download
Quicktime 6.2 MB - High Bandwidth Download

Video #5 (smells like trouble):

Quicktime 3 MB - Download
Quicktime 4.4 MB - High Bandwidth Download

Video #6 (beware of strangers using mobile phones):

Quicktime 5.9 MB - Download
Quicktime 10.2 MB - High Bandwidth Download


Amy Alexander - contact #!at!#


Amy Alexander - Director; Technical Director; Utility Programming; Occasional Video Programming
Wojciech Kosma - Lead Video Developer
Vincent Rabaud - Lead Computer Vision Developer
Marilia Maschion - Lead Production Assistant

Additional video programming by Jesse Gilbert; additional computer vision programming by Nikhil Rasiwasia; additional utility programming by Cristyn Magnus; additional production assistance by Annina Rüst.

Supported by

Production of SVEN/AI to the People was begun at the Digital Research Unit, Huddersfield, UK.
The project is also supported by UC Institute for Research in the Arts, Calit2, UCSD Center for the Humanities, UCSD Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA), The Hellman Fellowship Program at UCSD and UCSD Academic Senate.

See more...

For more software art, performance, and rockstarification by Amy, visit, CyberSpaceLand and
For more video art, programming, and nano-musicians by Wojciech visit his site...
For more computer vision, software development, penguins and other research by Vincent and Nikhil check out their homepages...
For more art projects, sinister activities and other mischief by Marilia and Annina stop by their sites...
And... read more about the elusive Jesse's movements here...

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