The debate rages around the impact on our lives of the development of artificial intelligence behind our screens.
Philosophically speaking, it’s a classic debate between the Ancients and the Moderns.
Some see only advantages (performing certain tasks can free up time for freedom, help in understanding the world to respond to energy and environmental issues, etc.), others see only drawbacks (risk of control of man by machine, destruction of professions and even know-how, etc.).
Yet in the midst of all this maelstrom, a project that raises questions about a 1,000-year-old “man/machine” interface now wants to use AI.
How many of us still enter a place of worship today?
If you do, you’re in the presence of this interface: stained-glass windows.
We’ve forgotten just how revolutionary they were, both in their material and informational achievements, and they should speak to us digital generations.
I had some fun using a C.I.V. text presenting the terms involved in creating a stained-glass window. Below this text, I’ve simply changed a few words:
“Stained glass is an art of infinite complexity. Its manufacture brings into play a wide range of trades, all of which must work together to create a common design.
For each window, the chromatic palette must be defined, and color combinations adapted to the symbolism of the story and the position of the stained glass in the cathedral.
While some worked out the geometric structure of the ironwork, others cut out the glass sheets, while others prepared the leads that would be welded to hold the jigsaw puzzle of glass pieces in place. The painters, with their background in illumination and calligraphy, have the artistic mission par excellence: to define the contours of the silhouettes, to draw expressions, drapery and physiognomic details using grisaille, a brown or black material that is fixed by a new firing.
None of these preliminary stages can be carried out without the craftsmen knowing what their work will be used for: each story requires coordinated thought to determine the length and number of episodes, the reading directions, the colors best suited to the tone of the story… Beforehand, thought must be given to transposing the texts into images. So we have to use the texts, synthesize them, select episodes and transform them into images.”
In the digital world
“DIGITAL is an art of infinite complexity. Its production involves a wide variety of trades, all working together to create a common design.
For each APPLICATION, the chromatic palette must be defined, and color combinations adapted to the symbolism of the story and to the location of the APPLICATION in its ENVIRONMENT.
While some create the BACK-END, others the FRONT-END, others prepare the APIs that will be welded together to hold the PROGRAM puzzle in place. GRAPHIC artists, with their background in illumination and calligraphy, have the artistic mission par excellence: that of defining the contours of silhouettes, drawing expressions, drapery and physiognomic details using grisaille, the brown or black matter that is fixed by a NEW UPDATE.
None of these preliminary steps can be carried out without the DEVELOPERS knowing what their work will be used for: each story requires coordinated thought to determine the length and number of episodes, the reading directions, the colors best suited to the tone of the story… We must first think about how to transpose the texts into images. So we have to use the texts, synthesize them, select episodes and transform them into images.
In 11 technical terms, the same text in the digital world!
Another bit of history. Around the year 1100, the art of stained glass had already been mastered, but it wasn’t until the Gothic architectural revolution that it was able to express itself and thus become a tool for the expression of knowledge.
The word computer science was coined in 1962 by Philippe Dreyfus, but its methodological use in mathematics has been around for centuries, and it took the creation of the TCP/IP protocol for computer science to become the expression of knowledge for all.
The objective itself is simple: to enable visitors to discover each element of a stained-glass window, and thus the story it tells, simply by pointing their smartphone at it.
The Centre international du Vitrail could have made do with a classic application offering a “plan” discovery of the stained glass windows, but they had the curiosity to :
- Watch visitor behavior
- Realize that the ergonomics of such an application would not have been satisfactory for the user.
- It’s another point that relates to today’s digital world and corresponds to the problems of almost 1,000 years ago.
- When stained-glass windows were created, each one represented a research project to study :
- Its position in the setting in relation to its symbolism;
- The impact of the architecture on the light required for illumination;
- Its height, to make reading possible (the lower the stained glass, the more detail can be introduced);
- Its structure to hold the pieces of glass;
- Its reading direction;
- Its colors, because each color has its own expression;
- The scenes depicted to convey a message.
In a digital world where images and video are increasingly replacing text, it’s another way of bringing our two worlds closer together.
Technically, the challenges are exciting because of the issues involved.
- Some stained-glass windows have elements over 30 metres high.
- The structure is rarely the same.
- Depending on the time of day, the light shines through differently.
- The same applies to the weather.
- Every color has its own variation.
- Observation angles are very different.
- The reading direction is variable, so the user must be guided.
I’ll pass quickly over all the other problems that developers encounter with applications of this type, such as the state of the local network, user hardware…
Two worlds that can now be brought together, if you like.