April 2013

Non digital but digital interface

As technologies develop, the interaction and interplay between the physical world and the digital world become more enmeshed. Certainly, this is an area of continual development and exploration in exhibition design – in particular in dealing with what has traditionally been 2D graphics. Recently there has been a proliferation of moving away from physically printed panels to providing digital touch panels that take advantage of what the digital medium can provide.

A twist that suggests a different approach, or one that offers interesting differences, is the new system generated by Fujitsu Laboratories , which is an augmented reality user interface.

How this might be used in an exhibit/exhibition medium is a fascinating thought. Rather than incorporating a light-emitting screen, one could still create physical graphics that have a hidden overlay of depth or could be sampled to a “digital scrapbook” without the need for any screen. In addition, the idea of other printed material, of physically built material, or even artifacts having direct interplay with such a system is exciting to contemplate. From a design perspective,

what is nice about this approach is the clarity and simplicity of the interface and the design, as well as the invisibility of the technology with the physical object.

Finally, it also turns around the whole augmented reality approach. Rather than the added information requiring viewing on a digital device, it instead becomes part of the very physical object one is manipulating.

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A little fun!

So, every once in a while we run across an interactive that just delights and makes us say “What a fun time.” Here is one that was on display last year in Brooklyn that was too much fun.  You might have seen it. Check out Wildbytes’ “Super Heroes” piece.

One point to think about that makes this much better than any other “blue screen” experience is the immense scale of the activity.  As mentioned in previous posts, scale is often overlooked in our field’s approach to tabletop, individual or small group exhibition design.

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3D Space

Often science centers and other museums look to engage people about how to understand different aspects of phenomena in three dimensional space on two dimensional displays (screens, graphics etc.).

What we often do not do is represent the three dimensional space in actual 3D space, allowing us to present the phenomena’s behavior in more powerful ways.

But since we are three dimensional creatures possibly this is the best way to understand or appreciate 3d space and what occurs there – seen or unseen.

Here are two examples that certainly one can riff on that made us think about this. The first is FLUIDIC by WHITEvoid.


Using 12,000 suspended spheres, a camera that senses the viewer and eight high speed lasers it creates an almost magical experience. We believe that being illuminated by laser light adds something special. Certainly a concept programmed to both enchant but to do so mimicking certain scientific phenomena could be impactful. By the way want to see this in person? Go to the Temporary Museum for New Design in Milan where it will be on display through April 14th.

The second piece that is similar but different is Submergence done by a group known as Squidsoup


This piece includes 8,064 spheres and LED lit. It too responds to visitors. This time though it’s possible to enter the space. Imagine explaining crystal structure, data movement or some other unseen movement through 3D space. You can see this at the Gallery ROM for Art and Architecture in Oslo, Norway

Often we fixate the on screens as the visual way to present information. What we may need to do more of is dedicate more space and create 3D spaces to represent 3D phenomena. We feel this creates an experience and opportunity that in fact is more powerful that what we have normally done.

If you know of more examples send them to us here on the blog.

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Physical Metaphor: Collecting Sounds

Certainly some of the most pleasurable and engaging experiences are when an environment/exhibit can create a physical experience that is a “metaphor” for another experience we engage in. In some ways touch tables experience are version of this (some more refined than others) where we play with “files” or “objects”, passing to others, manipulating them like they were physically there.

Those that can break from a singular location are even more special. One of the more delightful and intriguing that we have run across is the Re: Sound Bottle by by Jun Fujiwara from Tama Art University. Watch to completely understand.


The idea of chasing fireflies, tadpoles or other collection experiences but instead collecting sounds is delightful physical metaphor.

Imagine collecting rainbows, or documenting smell, capturing gravity…

It certainly is inspirational to think about how an experience, in our museums and science centers, could we create an experience where you manipulate, capture or collect items that are less physical but no more real. And in doing so discover or become aware of something new while also connecting with some age old or primal experience.

Share you ideas!

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