physical and digital

Physical and the digital – inspiration while in Europe at the ECSITE 13 conference

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:

The first is Murmur created by Chevalvert2RoqsPolygraphik and Splank.






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?


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digital water

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.

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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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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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firewall – inspiration weekly

The first thing that has captured our eye this year is this engaging and beautiful piece called Firewall:

It’s both artistic and musical and has an almost magical feel. It certainly would fit into many of the institutions we know. This was created by Aaron Sherwood created in collaboration with Michael Allison.

In addition, the experience has made us “riff” off of this piece for new experiences we might be part of, including:

-          explaining topography

-          exploring earthquakes

-          physically demonstrating sound waves

-          creating an illusionary environment

We would love to hear your ideas!

Meanwhile, back in October we were captured by the work of Antonin Fourneau and the Water Light Graffiti system. So now we have both fire and water. We just need to add earth and air and we’ll have the alchemy quattro.


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Inspiration – Water Light Graffiti

Having been a part of doing a digital “graffiti” wall in an earlier project for the Liberty Science Center, this new form of a digital “graffiti” wall that uses water is a new source of inspiration.  This is the Water Light Graffiti system


Check out the video

This project was project done under the Digitalarti Artlab by the artist Antonin Fourneau in Paris.  This graffiti wall uses a large wall of LEDs that are activated by moisture sensitive sensors. Participants can use a variety of tools to participate. We love the way this could add a bit of art/digital to water spaces in museums and science centers.

Part of the Wayne LaBar, ALCHEMY studio inspiration set at the ASTC session “Design Inspiration” being presented Tuesday.

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