HOW CAN WE COMMUNICATE IN A DIMENSION WE COULD NOT COMMUNICATE IN BEFORE?
3dMEDIA is a groundbreaking research project, which attempts to give another perspective to the unconventional relation between our three-dimensional world and the two-dimensional nature of digital communications. The project aims at developing a potential medium, which provides both sender and receiver with an equal experience and stimulates more of our senses shaping our environment in a way that approaches more our physical and tangible world.
The present project constitutes Konstantinos Mouzakis’ MA thesis in Communication Design at Central Saint Martins, London. The development of the project lasted about a year in order to be presented in public in June 2013 and has been exhibited among others at the Victoria & Albert museum, London. You can find a pdf version of the research paper here.
DIGITAL FUTURES, V&A
Photos from Digital Futures, an open studio showcase presenting groundbreaking new work at Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
The initial intentions of the project were to bridge the gap between the physical and the digital social networks. However, the Laws of Media stated by Marshall McLuhan, led the research to explore the actual nature of communication through digital mediums.
Through this process, research identified the unconventional relationship between our three dimensional world and the nature of digital communications which is still restrained in two dimension. As we move on, technological developments enable the sender to communicate a message in a more natural way. However, the receiver is still restricted in two dimensions. In addition, virtual worlds have been created inside the servers of the web. Such systems of communication make us question if we are gradually abandoning our real world for the sake of the virtual one we have built.
What we really need is a medium that radically changes the way we communicate through distance. Potentially if we develop a new medium that can provide both sender and receiver with an equal experience, then more of our senses would be stimulated. Therefore, we will be able to experience a more physical and almost tangible way of communication through distance.
The idea of the project is to develop a medium that approaches more the physical and tangible world of our senses. First thoughts were triggered by the pin art toy, an old and mechanical medium that if being hacked, it could provide us with amazing possibilities. The concept is to split the context of the device into an input and an output and then by interacting with something in one place, a piece of space to instantly respond in another place. This development urges a great diversity of potential mediums to be invented. Pushing the idea further, a sensor that captures human motion can feed with data a three-dimensional fluid wall of rods. These rods will be the actual representation of the pixels of a screen that gain the ability to expand to the third dimension.
The concept can result in various outcomes applied to exhibition spaces, public space interactive installations, advertising billboards and communication mediums. Input and output can be equally flexible to fit application's context, replacing for instance the rods with water (eg. water fountain), or replacing the gestures with human movement (eg. traffic) or flow of specific data (eg. stocks).
In order to define the final outcome, some experiments had to be conducted. These experiments gave research the opportunity not only to apply theory in practice but also to test the users' engagement, the effectiveness of materials and the technology required to finally build such a medium, following the process of reverse engineering. The sample of users that took part weren't aware of the nature and the aim of the project and they didn't get any kind of instructions either. During the experiments, the time needed for the users to start operating a device along with the time spent playing with it was measured. Also, responses while interacting were logged and everyone was briefly interviewed.
DEVICE - OUTPUT
Since the budget required to build a wall of rods is enormous, the first complete attempt of the new medium was accomplished in a smaller scale. After solving numerous of programming and technical issues, the final outcome consists of an 8x8 grid of lighted acrylic rods. The device projects any volume and motion scanned by the input source in three dimensions and in real time. Its structure hides all the technology inside and allows only the rods and the light to escape. Moreover, it can be placed in any position and orientation, according to the specific circumstances.
DEVICE - INPUT
For the needs of the degree show, a specific setup was designed as an input. A device similar to the output houses the 3D scanner and some fans. Air is transmitted to the interaction area through small slots, each time something enters the space. The input device should be clearly separated from the output, by a noticeable distance or an obstacle, in order for the 'communication through distance' to be showcased.
A potential next step of the evolution of this medium can be suggested as a merge of the input and the output into one part. Then, by having two devices that the one reflects the other, users could experience a Skype-like communication but in a more physical way. Obviously, the development of such a device requires even more sophisticated technology as well as a great budget. However, the present research acknowledges that such a further step raises too many questions to be investigated that hopefully will push the medium to the unknown.