Inspiring Digital da Vincis with ‘The Art of Touch’

REDMOND, Wash. – Nov. 10, 2011 – Microsoft unfurled an infinite canvas across the Internet today, inviting artists of all ages to become digital da Vincis.
The company’s new “The Art of Touch” project offers anyone using a modern HTML5-capable browser a digital palette and canvas to create, save and share digital art. The Art of Touch site,, transforms a visitor’s mouse into a paintbrush; with a click, flick or swipe, visitors can paint their masterpiece, then show it off to friends.
The Art of Touch on Display
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The Project Begins
Nov. 10, 2011
Microsoft is inspiring artistic creativity through the launch of an international campaign called “The Art of Touch,” which provides a free digital toolset and canvas to easily create, save and share digital art.
See also:  The Art of Touch
The site was inspired by the design, elegance and capabilities of Microsoft’s Touch Mouse family of products, says Francois Ruault, senior director of marketing for Microsoft Hardware.
“We’re using art as a way to transcend technology and make people truly come back to the essence of what a mouse should do – empowering them to navigate their favorite content, express their respective talents and bring them out to the many,” he says.
At the site, visitors can use three digital brushes and six different effects to create their artwork. The brushes will produce a ribbon, smoke or streak across the canvas, and optional effects include starbursts, trees and splats. Both brushes and effects were inspired in part by what’s possible in professional drawing tools, Ruault says. “It’s striking to see the richness of the art created only just in the test phase of the project.”
The combination of a user painting with computer-generated images promises to be an interesting experience, says Marius Watz, a digital artist who collaborated with Microsoft on the Art of Touch palette.
“This is much different than a traditional drawing program, which is just a passive tool,” Watz says. “The Art of Touch program is more like having an artwork with its own intelligence and style of drawing, but it allows you to take the hand at directing it.”
Watz joined two other artists, Erik Natzke and Dr. Woohoo!, to create images that would be visible right at launch. (As Ruault notes, a blank canvas can be intimidating.) The Norwegian-born Watz has long played at the intersection of art and software, which he sees as a new field of creativity for artists and designers. Several years ago he started Generator.x, a platform that explores the use of generative strategies and software processes in digital art.
Tonight at the Microsoft Store in Seattle, Watz will demo the Art of Touch site. He hopes people enjoy playing with the tools he helped build. Based on personal use, he says spending some time at The Art of Touch site is a pretty gratifying experience.
“The artwork all has a very exuberant visual style,” he says. “You'd have to be in a pretty bad mood in order to not enjoy it.”
Where Art and Technology Intersect, Fun Happens
The “exuberant style” Watz refers to is made possible by Microsoft’s Touch technology, says Scott Moir, technical director at the interactive digital marketing company that worked on The Art of Touch project, ZAAZ.
“The Art of Touch project is about an alignment between the technology – the mice as product – and the art that they have inspired,” Moir says. “For us, it was all about thinking about that inspiration and translating it into technology people can experience online.”
That involved pushing modern browsers to their limit, he explains. At The Art of Touch site, the canvas feature of HTML5 is combined with JavaScript libraries to draw the strokes and computer-generated animations in real-time to the web browser.
The real-time collaboration between human and machine gives people something may never have before experienced. “Technology is fun, and creating art is fun. And the two combined is an interesting compelling experience,” he says. “Hopefully this will inspires people to do more of the same, whether creating more digital art or participating in other future drawing projects online or otherwise.”
Each person who creates a work of art using The Art of Touch palette can save and tag it with their name and location. They can also share it online and through their social networks such as Facebook, where they can earn votes to win prizes in The Art of Touch Sweepstakes. Now through Feb. 4, 2012, Microsoft will give away prizes including Microsoft Touch mice, Windows 7 PCs and other prizes that will feature participants’ artwork. On December 31, the top vote-getter will be showcased on The Art of Touch site as a featured artist.
Ruault hopes the Art of Touch site becomes one of the largest digital art pieces in the world, while raising awareness of Microsoft’s innovative line up over the holiday timeframe. Over the next few months users can keep adding to the “living creature,” as he calls it, or simply explore what people around the world have created. All artwork will be added to the “Sea of Art” canvas that users can fly through horizontally, vertically or in-depth.
“Not only do we want people to express themselves individually, but we see this beauty in connecting all that art together, which is another Microsoft value,” Ruault says. “We want to show how people can be connected through art.”

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About Doru Somcutean

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