There are few courses as extraordinarily ambitious as the Interactive Environments Minor a semester-long project at TU Delft organized by the Faculty of Architecture – hyperBODY and Industrial Design and Engineering – ID-StudioLab.
“Throughout the course, three interdisciplinary groups of students supported by TU Delft researchers and guest teachers have designed and built three interactive lounge pavilions. The pavilions attract people to enter, facilitate relaxation and provide a refuge from daily chores.”
“Each of these structures is a dynamic system, which communicates with its visitors across different modalities. The installations not only actively adapt to their users’ actions, but autonomously develop a will and behaviour of their own. In this way interactive architectural environments come to life, engaging their occupants in an unprecedented experience of a continuous dialogue with the occupied space.”
While he’s been too modest to put his name up front on these projects, the real passion and brains behind this project has been Tomasz Jaskiewicz bringing together undergraduate students from a range of degree courses to create a unique design space occupied by programmers, engineers, architects and designers. I look forward to seeing how this evolves in future.
The final piece in the Emergence Exhibition is “Sniff” by Karolina Sobecka and Jim George. Sniff is an interactive projection: an animated dog follows passers-by, discerns their behavior as friendly or aggressive, tries to engage them and forms a relationship with them based on the history of the interaction. As the viewer walks by the projection, their movements and gestures are tracked by a computer vision system. Sniff is an exploration of the moment of engagement.
It partly grew out of interest in philosophical discussion about the mind and mind theory, particularly in what’s termed the “commonplace” understanding of mental states and inferring of agency. Our automatic interpretation of behavior as social interaction is especially emblematic in a non-linguistic engagement with the ‘other’, which in case of Sniff produces a hybrid space of virtual and real emotions, social guess-work and mind modeling. Sniff is an attempt to trigger an intense, playful and insightful level of engagement at which we solve the “other minds” problem in everyday life. Sniff is inserted into our physical reality and follows its rules.
Curated by David Familian & Simon Penny, “this exhibition features international artists exploring both the biological and computational manifestations of emergent behavior arising from dynamically changing, interactive sculptures. We as human beings are created and create through a process of emergence. Whether these emergent forms originate organically or are man-made, they can illustrate to us the rich variety of mutating systems with all their variety and ability to adapt to a changing world.”
The Universal Whistling Machine, Marc Bohlen.
Under the moniker REAL TECH SUPPORT, Marc Bohlen has been designing and building, over the past decade, information processing systems that critically reflect on information as a cultural value. He calls this “REAL TECH SUPPORT because technology, the dominant vector in the 21st century, cannot solve all the problems generated in its wake; its needs support. REAL TECH SUPPORT attempts to contribute to such a support system.”
Marc’s huge series of investigations over the past decade.
His work is informed by a long apprenticeship in the crafts (stone masonry), humanities (art history) and the engineering sciences (electrical engineering and robotics). The systems he designs are experiments and artworks found here and here and his texts are critical reflections on the works and the contexts they operate in.
The Universal Whistling Machine
Whistling is a communication primitive in most human languages. Whistling is a kind of time travel to a less articulated state. Inhabitants of Gomera, one of the Canary Islands, use a whistling language, el Silbo Gomera, to communicate from hilltop to hilltop. Their powerful whistles travel farther than the spoken word. We share whistling and song with many animals. Mammals and birds carry the means for whistling in them. Just as we carry physical remnants of our bodily evolution in us, we carry the capacity for whistling in us.
U.W.M (The Universal Whistling Machine) is an investigation into the vexing problem of human-machine interface design. Whistling is much closer to the phoneme-less signal primitives compatible with digital machinery than the messy domain of spoken language. As opposed to pushing machines into engaging humans in spoken language, U.W.M. suggests we meet on a middle ground. Whistling occurs across all languages and cultures. All people have the capacity to whistle, though many do not whistle well. Lacking phonemes, whistling is a pre-language language, a candidate for a limited Esperanto of human-machine communication. Beyond alternatives to computer interfaces, U.W.M. also offers the potential for a new approach to human-animal communication. U.W.M. is capable of imitating certain bird whistles as easily as it can synthesize human whistles. Could this lead to new forms of human-machine-animal exchanges?
Living Light by David Benjamin and Soo-in Yang (aka “The Living“) is a permanent outdoor pavilion in the heart of Seoul with a dynamic skin that glows and blinks in response to both data about air quality and public interest in the environment. The skin of the pavilion is a giant map of Seoul with the 27 neighborhood (gu) boundaries redrawn based on existing air quality sensors of the Korean Ministry of Environment—each shape in this new map encloses the air closest to one of the sensors. Then the map illuminates to become an interactive, environmental building facade. Citizens can enter the pavilion or view it from nearby streets and buildings, and they can text message the building and it will text them back.
This structure in a public park not only provides a canopy and a tactile enclosure, it also suggests that a building facade itself can become a new kind of public space. It can offer important real-time information about our shared resources and our collective concerns. The Living are also showing their work at the current Toward the Sentient City exhibition in New York. See previous post for more details.