This week in the studio, it has been a bit slow with the dog days of summer (honored here with a picture of our office dogs) and the eventual buildup of meetings and conferences immediately after Labor Day.
That said, we have run across two interesting projects: one that reminded us of one of our past projects and another that might suggest some new ways to integrate visitors into interactive exhibits.
The first is the RiF010 Water Sport/Wave Pool planned for Rotterdam. See both the computer rendering and working model below.
This reminds us of a project a few years back in Sydney, Australia where we suggested that Darling Harbour should include a place to surf. This was part of some brainstorming for the National Maritime Museum to activate their Darling Harbour front. Just looking at the apparatus here, we see possibilities to create some intriguing wave tanks, perhaps smaller, for both natural history and science installations. Creating a realistic model of ocean waves… we can think of many uses for that.
The second idea we want to share is the evolving reality of real-time monitoring of people’s physical activity. Examples such as the Fitbit abound, but take a look at the new clothing sensor line being created by Athos.
Technology such as this offers the opportunity to create experiences (interactive and individualized) that move exhibits of sport and competition into new realms. Visitors can record their performance over multiple visits, can become actual “artifacts” that are part of the experience, can be, in effect, their own demonstrations. We’re definitely seeing how this type of technology can be integrated into the “stuff’ and experience of museums and other public places.
This week at the studio, we’ve been thinking and talking about ways to use technology to foster inquiry. This was sparked in part to a recent article in ed, the magazine for the Society of Experiential Graphics (click here to see the article) written by the studio’s very own Wayne LaBar. In addition if you are interested in exploring the subject further register for the SEGD Exhibition & Experience Design Workshop being held August 21 – 22 in Washington DC. Wayne and others will be speaking at it.
As part of our discussions, we came across an interesting video done by a GoPro video owner – it shows what goes on when you run your dishwasher. Watch below:
This video got us thinking about how everyday technologies that our visitors adopt or use can be co-opted to suggest and foster inquiry experiences in their lives and at museums. Let’s just take the GoPro camera system, for example. Here, we have a rugged, video data collection system that anyone can use. Imagine creating an experience where visitors are prompted to shoot the mysterious goings-on in neighborhood locales, or shoot video of places they can’t actually see, providing perspectives that one often doesn’t think about. This could be at home or even within a museum.
We believe we should be fostering ideas about how we might take new technologies that people are adopting and twist them into interesting new tools for investigating the world.
This seems like a creative way to think about and innovate toward some new experiences for museums, science centers, children’s museums, and other places.
Now that you’ve seen what’s happening inside a dishwasher, what else do you want to see? How might you use an everyday technology in a new way?
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.
The past 10 working days have been very busy here in the studio. We have some new projects ramping up and several moving creatively forward, but we have had the chance to encounter a couple of very interesting projects that all demonstrate the idea of 3D modeling in new ways.
The first is Lix, the world’s smallest 3D printing pen in the world.
Well, this pen doesn’t exist yet, but it’s currently a Kickstarter project. Certainly, this direction of 3D printing will become increasingly prevalent in the creative fields, and we think it’s easy to see this technology on the museum floor. From art museums to children’s museums, the artistic and creative implications are easy to see. In science museums, while it might be easy to imagine something like this being used in a maker or tinkering space, this idea got us thinking about some new ways it might be used.
How might a 3D pen like this be used to document or record phenomena?
Could it be used instead of a pen for exhibits like pendulum drawing?
This trend of replacing a physical medium with something new is part of the allure of the other project we ran across recently – a piece called ”36 Ventilators, 4.7m3 Packing Chips” by the Swiss artist Zimoun for the Museo d’Arte di Lugano
The amazing similarity of this piece to ocean waves and flowing water is breathtaking. No doubt, some aspects of size weight and the idea of many particles cause this movement to “flow” almost as a fluid. It reminded us of some of the natural phenomena exhibits seen at many science museums. We’re very intrigued by the idea of experimenting with this behavior in different spaces and different contexts.
What do you think? What other exhibits, installations, or devices do these projects remind you of?
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.
Recently, ALCHEMY studio was engaged to begin the design and implementation of a new space for an emerging science center in Virginia. As part of the Museum’s plan, they are being offered the opportunity to experiment and test program and exhibit ideas in a small space in a local shopping area. We call it The Lab – a space where visitors will get to experiment, experience and tinker while the emerging science center will do the same through prototypes.
As part of our work, we are exploring all kinds of new and different experiences that offer something unique but also meet the desired experiential and impact goals. One interesting example that caught our eye is the OTOTO by Dentaku and developed with Near Now. Take a look.
This experience certainly shows promise as an activity that could be part of many tinkering and making spaces. This is certainly an opportunity to allow visitors to express creativity – one driver for these spaces. But, as importantly for us here at the studio,
it offers the opportunity to explore and provide interpretive scaffolding for visitors to learn about science concepts and technological operations – something sometimes lacking in maker space activities.
Meanwhile, music offers a wonderful way to engage audiences who might be disinclined to explore these subjects.
Another example to explore would be having visitors experiment with sampling and learn musical and sound concepts while creating. This idea came to us through this experience by johnnyrandom who created a musical symphony from bicycle components. Here it is.
We would love to “hear” your ideas on this (pardon the pun!) and learn about similar experiences you might have seen.
As part of some research for a recent project here at ALCHEMY studio, we have become especially interested in exhibits that encourage visitors’ artistic expression and then invite visitors to share and document these expressions or creations in a meaningful way.
What we see as strong elements of this piece include the simplicity and the low threshold for visitors to actually engage in the creative work. In addition, it’s not just a blank piece of paper. The creative opportunity has some definition, thus providing a “skeleton” to spark and structure one’s creativity. Sometimes a blank piece of paper can be intimidating and confusing, while a “seed” or “scaffold” can get the process flowing.
Technologically, it’s very easy, simple, and straightforward to insert one’s part of the animation into the collective public-sourced piece.
Finally, what is incredibly powerful is that the collective piece is as much the focus of the experience as is the act of adding one’s creative addition to the animation.
We believe this experience has some important lessons as we all explore experiences where the raison d’être is crowd-sourced, visitor-created content rather than experiences created by museum staff or curators.
We are excited to adapt some aspects of this experience to subjects other than animation.
How does the experience inspire you? We look forward to hearing your thoughts about other experiences that reflect important points about visitor-generated pieces.
This week we’ve run across both large-scale and small-scale electronic experiences that inspired us to think about how we might apply these in future projects. You might have seen one or both before, but we thought considering them together would spark some interesting ideas and connections. These two certainly showcase the small to large ends of the spectrum for electronic interactives.
Using a special conductive ink, it will allow users to physically draw circuits.
For those with “Maker” or “Tinkering” spaces, this product will be something to experiment with and may even lower the barriers for visitors to engage with circuitry. It might even be possible to put this out in a public space in a less supervised environment – possibly even in schools
As new developments make it even easier to engage in “Maker” experiences at home and school, when will a “Maker” space at a museum not be unique or distinct from what visitors are doing elsewhere?
On the large scale, here is a dynamic idea done for British Airways.
Created by Ogilvy 12th Floor, these billboards use surveillance technology along with flight info to create this engaging experience. It is a large-scale example of using real-time data, a subject that our blog has explored before. See others posts here.
Imagine an experience that does this with clouds, traffic, animals or other elements for which real-time data would be interesting and dynamic. Certainly a museum could riff on this idea to create something really cool and memorable.
What are your thoughts about these experiences? What else do they remind you of? How would you adapt them in a way that connects to something you’re working on or thinking about?
In the museum field, the world of science centers and those of zoos, aquariums and in part natural history museums have crossed content areas in a variety ways – but rarely in the robotic world. Ok, perhaps in the area of animatronic dinosaurs, but not truly in the “robotic” world.
Using Kinect (yet another exciting use of this technology) and data scanning, these “life forms” react and change their behaviors as people interact with structures, changing according to the number of people and their apparent interest in the “creatures.” More details about the project can be found on the Minimaform web site.
While this simulation of a living creature might be seen to easily fit into the context of the science center, here at ALCHEMY studio,we are taken with the idea of how an installation like this or other robotic simulations could be used by zoos and aquariums.
Imagine a zoo or aquarium using interactions like these along with its live collection to discuss the characteristics of living things and how humans are exploring creating artificial life.
As our created world blends increasingly with the natural world, there will be other opportunities for institutions to cross boundaries in what they invite visitors to explore through public programming.
In fact, it might even be possible with a similar project to model behavior you are seeing from the live collection – allowing for visitors to experiment with and test aspects of animal behavior.
What have you seen that matches this idea? How might you imagine using robotic life to support new and interesting experiences?
In the design of exhibitions, there is often a desire to create immersive environments or experiences that allow visitors to lose themselves in the experience rather than be reminded that they are in a museum or exhibition.
An example of a simple approach through projection – but surely not an easy one to create – is Onion Skin by Olivier Ratsi, who is on the AntiVJ visual label.
This experience is an elegant and totally mesmerizing exploration of point-of-view, perspective and vanishing point. It relies on principle known as “anamorphosis” (your vocabulary word of the day). Onion Skin, as is, certainly has relevance to art and visual science content and would be at home at many museums/exhibitions.
As an approach for an immersive experience,it also points out how a simple setup, with creative programming, can become a powerful experience that transports visitors out of an exhibition.
It got us thinking about if and how this approach could be used for various subjects and how that might be achieved. What comes to mind for you?
A final wild thought would be translating this technique and blowing it up for use in a large-screen format. That would be a fun experiment, don’t you think? Share your ideas here.