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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wonderful web play

These days here at the studio, we are always on the hunt for innovative and engaging ways to interact with the digital environment. This certainly applies to how visitors might interact with something that has a screen. After all, resorting back to traditional interfaces and imagery seems pointless in a world where our home digital world is complex.

A recent source of inspiration is the developing portal/palate of experience created by Jongmin Kim of Form Follow FunctionOne note: From video this site appears to be designed first for the iOS. Try you iPad if you have one. We found at times that our Chrome browser had problems working the site. You might need to use IE or Safari. It’s a little wonky at times.

form follows function

While we suggest you spend some time experimenting and exploring these (all of which we found to be great fun), there are certain ones that felt instantly transferable to some of the content we are often trying to portray.


Surface Waves










Try “Color Pixelated,” “Surface Waves,” and “Ripples on the Green” to name a few. And as you will see, there are more experiences coming!

We were instantly struck by how interesting some of these might be if projected in a large format, or represented so visitors could interact with their whole bodies rather than just a mouse or finger. What this also goes to show is that, often, we try to use computers in exhibits to cram in lots of information while, instead,

these make the interactivity laser-like in focus – a nod to the idea that simplicity can make for better and more engaging experiences.


We suggest you also look at Jongmin’s other work on his site.

One note: We found at times that our Chrome browser had problems working the site. You might need to use IE or Safari.

Let us know your thoughts and reactions!


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non-gravity gravity well : weekly inspiration

The interface between the digital data and modeling world and the 3D world will certainly be one of the richest areas of innovation – in our everyday lives and, as a result, in exhibition design, too. The latest inspiring effort that we found is Zero N by from the Tangible Media Group at MIT’s Media Lab, created by Jinha Lee in collaboration with Rehmi Post and Hiroshi Ishii

What struck us immediately is the almost magical but realistic-looking modeling of gravity and other physical aspects such as the progression of the sun around the earth. While certainly in its early stages, the technology found here offers the ability to model other aspects of physics in a new way that may, in fact, be more effective for visitors. I’m sure others out there can come up with an exciting list of possible uses.

True to our name as ALCHEMY studio, we are continually trying to document, think about, use, and riff on new developments such as these. As home entertainment systems, computers and mobile devices rapidly evolve, the digital information and digital interfaces that museums employ will need to change.

Certainly, one direction that museums must explore is making experiences (exhibits, events, special installations, programs) that utilize new ways in which the actual physical world interacts with the digital world.

So, whether it is an interface/model such as ZeroN made possible by computers, or the interplay of projection, data and spandex in Firewall, our efforts to engage visitors will need to stretch to create experiences that aren’t possible at home.


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