In the latest issue of ed the magazine for the Society of Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD), Wayne LaBar founder of ALCHEMY studio discusses the new technologies that are merging to engage people in experiences at museums. Below is a reprint of the article.
As we all know, there are constant technological and creative leaps being taken that impact and add to the palette of materials, techniques and approaches that can be applied to experience planning and design. This week we have run across three examples that have gotten us thinking and brainstorming how they might be applied.
The first is an installation called Contact, created by Felix Faire as a research project at the Interactive Architecture Lab – Bartlett School of Architecture and now on display at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in the exhibition Sensing Spaces.
What Felix has done is create a way to make any hard surface into an interface. Certainly this piece will find its way into more museums but perhaps even more interesting is the idea of using this technique to make any surface a controller. In a museum setting, this might be a graphic panel, a piece of exhibition armature, or a vitrine. What is interesting is thinking about removing the need or ubiquity of the physical “interactive” control or screen.
You can watch a vidoe of how Contact was made here.
The second example is a new lighting system from Codha called Crypsis. Take a look.
Using a system like this would certainly alter significantly the way we may light artifacts and other items in display cases. In fact, this is the first way this system will be tested. In addition, this offers a unique opportunity for museums to have visitors experiment with light and could also be incorporated into physics exhibits or even maker spaces.
The final interesting piece is the mirror fence concept by Alyson Shotz.
Simple in its execution and an interesting work of art, the concept of the mirror fence seems like it could be useful in any situation where you need to create a separation of space but you don’t want that operation to be detectible from a visitor’s perspective. For us, zoo enclosures came to mind immediately. Where could use imagine using a mirror fence?
We’d love to hear from you about what ideas these examples sparked for you.
One of the more interesting effects of the merger between the digital and physical worlds is our ability to “read’ or “interpret” various mediums into completely different forms and to do so with simplicity and elegance.
A perfect example of this is the Colour Chaser, by Yuri Suzuki. While originally conceived in 2010, it recently was expanded to become an interactive sensor, sound and robotic installation called Looks Like Music for the Mudam, or Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean.
Here, as you can see, visitors can draw their own paths of color to engage the robot and, in essence, create a musical march for the robot. The simplicity of the approach, the straightforwardness of the interactive outcomes, and the possible creativity all make this incredibly attractive. It incorporates and engages science and art simultaneously.
Here is an example of something we might seek to embed in more technological exhibits in our field -
the idea of not trying to burden every exhibit with the full story but rather to create more exhibits that break the digital/physical interplay into bite-sized chunks…. discrete experiential chunks that can “sing” through a simpler design.
Where have you seen examples like this? How do you imagine using techniques like this to expand the possibilities?
With its capacity to detect a user’s movements, the Microsoft Kinect system stands ready to change how the museum and themed entertainment field might consider where an interactive experience occurs and what the interactive medium might be. As shown recently here in our blog over two months ago, water can serve as an interface location. In fact, recently this same story again surfaced across the web – for example here and here.
Certainly, the next step is developing more sophisticated augmented reality experiences based on this ability. While the water example shows some rudimentary possibilities, an application (came out last year) that certainly could have potential impacts – educationally and otherwise – is shown here. In this one sand is sand to as our medium and simulate water and water flow.
A further refined version is being worked on or is finished through the work Oliver Kreylos of UC, Davis, the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (at UC, Davis), and the Lawrence Hall of Science (at UC, Berkeley) for ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington, Vermont. Here is video of that piece.
Thinking back on past projects where we wanted to create a physical interactive six or seven years ago about watersheds and drainage, had this been around, we might have jumped on it.
But this technology, along with things such as our posting two weeks ago on motion tracking systems and cameras/projection, means that as we think about exhibitions, there is a vast opportunity to add an additional digital dimension if necessary. This applies even to some our most tried-and-true interactive examples.
Take a gravity well. When we will see the first one where, as the ball travels down the well, the acceleration figures, the projected path, or force vectors are projected on the surface of the gravity well itself? How about projection on an erosion table? The list of possibilities is endless. Additionally, all of this digital information can be saved, taken home, shared on personal devices, and distributed through the cloud. We are just beginning to explore how this could change the ways physical interactives can link together with our lives outside of the walls of a museum.
But there are dangers, and at times we don’t want this extra layer. It might detract from the innate beauty, simplicity, or emotional and learning impacts of the physical interactive.
The key will be figuring out when to add this ability and when to leave the physical reality of a phenomenon alone.
We here at the studio can already imagine the debates and conversations that will erupt as we move forward with these evolving abilities. Those are going to be some good conversations around the conference bar! Meanwhile until then we remain on the lookout for new examples. Do you know of any? What do you think of the coming revolution?
In previous posts we mentioned how changing one’s viewpoint can offer new opportunities for experiences in an exhibition. A new technology just crossed our desks here at the studio, and we think it’s pretty amazing.
Here is the Dynamic Target Tracking Camera System.
The way the tracking systems follows a moving object has sparked our thoughts about how such a system might be applied to a wide variety of science center experiences. It would be interesting, for example, to combine this system with a gravity well and observe the arrival of the hole rather that the ball. Also, one could launch several balls into a well and track each independently by projecting a unique number on each. We could advance that even further by projecting the speed of the ball directly on the ball itself as it accelerates toward the hole.
A similar concept could be used in a Rhodes Ball Machine – but one in which you get to project your face on a ball as it moves through the machine. That’s just one way to personalize this type of experience. Of course, this technology could be used for many sports exhibits, too – like following a pitcher’s curve ball or tracking a golf ball trajectory.
Let your imagination run wild. How else might this be applied in the museum field?
What about outside the museum field? How could you imagine using this technology in other ways?
Recently we blogged about the merging of the physical and digital worlds and how this phenomenon offers some very engaging and potentially stronger ways for exhibitions to use digital media to create more impactful experiences. Under the tag physical and digital, you can check out several blog entries that present some unique approaches to this physical/digital convergence.
This week, we came across a new example of this design approach. Take a look at DIRTI for the iPad, created by Userstudio.
The testing pictured happend at La Maison des Petits. Using translucent material (including ice cream if you watch the second video!) and a simple web cam along with Raspberry Pi, you can create an effect that’s determined by your movements and changes in the material’s density and transparency.
This is a simple but elegant example of how a physical medium can be used to create and direct a physical link to a digital world.
Certainly, the key aspect of this experience is what the physical manipulation of the material actually corresponds to in the digital realm.
That said, this points to yet another example of elevating the impact of information and experience on a digital screen by closely correlating the interface and the medium.
While ice cream or tapioca may make for a creative music and color experience, here water (or maybe slime!) or some other substance might allow for an entirely different experience.
So, a thread that, here at the studio, we believe is ripe for an explosion of innovation in both design and experience is
how we bring together the physical and digital worlds.
Many of our former blogs postings focus on this interplay. Since many of us who are part of the studio have science, design or engineering degrees, it makes some sense that we’d be intrigued by connections between the physical and the digital and how those connections might apply to a variety of future projects. Here are two new examples:
What is interesting here is the physical connection between the visitor’s sound and the representation on the screen. The literalness and physicality of this connection create a strong response between the experience and the digital display. Additionally, visitors manipulate a digital display of information via a physical interface that is not one of the expected devices normally used (screen, mouse, keyboard, knob etc.).
This week’s second inspiration piece is the projection on the Museum of Art and History in Geneva created by Onionlab. This production is called Evolució
While projecting on a building is not new, what this projection does is actually use the surface, the museum, as the star of the show. The physical world makes the projection “sing.” Too often in exhibition design attention is paid only to the digital content being projected. Perhaps, instead, we should start from the other way around:
“Here we have a special physical object. How could a projection added to it create something new and transformative?”
What do you think? Where have you seen interesting interplay between the physical and digital worlds?
So, a few days ago, we posted the new interface/augmented reality project by Fujitsu Laboratories. This offers some interesting ideas for integrating augmented reality into museum exhibition environments. Now we have a new one to take a look at.
Here is another new digital interface that offers more fascinating ways to interact with digital information. AquaTop turns a pool of water into an interactive, three-dimensional digital interface surface.
AquaTop is a projection system that uses something like bath salts to create a white water screen surface. (Most likely, other substances could work as well.) The other components include a sensor system (in this case, Kinect), a projector, lighting control, and interactive programming. The system won the Grand Prize at Laval Virtual this year.
There is something intuitive and pleasing about the physicality of water and the common digital “touch” interface. Makes one wonder what other actions we might develop if we projected on water more often.
One particularly fascinating thing about AquaTop is that it directly and visually demonstrates multiple points of interface – for example, by showing visible markers when someone touches the surface with multiple fingers – from under the surface! We’re also intrigued about using other sensor systems and how we might manipulate things like waves or other physical water phenomena. We can also imagine some truly creative and fun ways to incorporate this technology into a water play area or other water related exhibit.
AquaTop has some similar attirbutes to the posting we had about 3d projections. You can check out that earlier post here.
What ideas do you have? We’d love to hear what you’re imagining.
A shout-out to Louise Julie Bertrand who pointed us to this project – thank you.
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.
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.
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.