Powerful New Interactive Video From Usher Confronts the Reality of Unarmed Victims

Innovative Use of Facial-Recognition Software Makes the Project's Message, 'Don't Look Away,' Resonate

Published on Oct 22, 2015

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In a powerful new interactive online experience from streaming service Tidal, artist Usher invites music fans to control a video with just their eyes -- and in the process confront some recent high-profile tragedies in a deeply personal way.

Titled "Don't Look Away," the experience works in Firefox and Chrome desktop browsers. Users are asked to enable their computer's webcam (nothing is recorded or stored), whereupon facial-recognition software roughly maps facial features, including eyes. A stark all-text screen explains the subtext -- "While racial injustice keeps killing, society keeps looking away" -- followed by another screen with a simple instruction: "To listen to Usher's song 'Chains,' look in the eyes of unarmed victims." As the song plays (warning: explicit lyrics), images and brief narratives appear on the screen.

First, we see Trayvon Martin, in a full-screen photo, along with a caption: "Walking home from a store, Trayvon was profiled as a potential criminal by a neighbor armed with a gun. The man shot Trayvon dead. He was found not guilty." Seven more photos/narratives follow, including that of Sean Bell: "Sean died when his car was shot 50 times by undercover NYPD officers on the morning of his wedding day. He was unarmed. The shooters were found not guilty."

If users look away from their screen during the experience -- breaking eye contact with any of the deceased -- the facial-recognition software senses it, stops playing the song and flashes a message: "Don't look away."

Usher performed "Chains" for the first time Tuesday night as part of the Tidal X 1020 Amplified by HTC Concert in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center. According to a statement from Tidal, the concert was the "first of a series of philanthropic music events curated by Tidal in order to raise awareness, funds, conscious engagement and dynamic action for transformative and positive social impact."

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Oct 22, 2015

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