Category Archives: Thishappened

This Happened returned with their eighth London event as part of London Digital Week last month.

Shajay Bhooshan – Computer Generated Architecture

Shajay Bhooshan is an architectural researcher working at Zaha Hadid Architects and a course tutor at the AA School of Architecture.

Shajay talked about his research into alternative approaches to architectural design, namely his use of unconventional software and modelling techniques for some of his work at Zaha Hadid.

He spoke about using software traditionally used for developing videos games and designing motion graphics, showing us some of his experiments with Maya.

He explored the effects of using CGI over traditional methods, writing algorithmic and generative visualisations to create new original designs or influence his existing ‘traditional’ ideas.

Shajay showed us a lot of illustrations and motion captures from his research and project work, all of which can be found on his blog.

Shajay Bhooshan – Computer Generated Architecture video and slides.

Dotmancando – CoinFlipper

Dotmancando is Nitipak Samsen, an interaction designer and recent Royal College of Art graduate, who demonstrated his exhibition piece; the CoinFlipper.

His ideas revolved around the psychological aspect of control and his belief that contrary to our outward appearance, we don’t always want decisions left up to fate or randomness, such as that found in the event of a coin-toss.

Dot claims that we most likely always form a preference as to the outcome before flipping a coin and probably really only flip a coin anyway to feel less guilty about a choice, or to affirm that such an outcome is the right decision.

So he created a mechanism to take that decision out of the hands of fate and to perform a predictable coin toss by way of a impartial mechanical device, in turn, forcing ‘the flipper’ to reveal their true intention.

Dot was very entertaining in showcasing his many prototypes and the recordings of the experiments he carried out. We saw various incarnations constructed with wood, solenoid and Meccano and DIY-style gears attached to rulers until he ultimately achieved his final design.

His has all his work on his blog too, along with most of those prototypes), which can all be seen in this highlights video, on Vimeo:

Dotmancando – CoinFlipper video and slides.

Alexander Grünsteidl – Digital Wellbeing Labs

Alexander Grünsteidl is an ex-product designer who founded Digital Wellbeing Labs, a project set up to pilot a new kind of retail environment for digital lifestyle products.

Born out of distaste and ‘recognition of failure’ of the traditional mindset of consumer retail in selling electronic products, Digital Wellbeing Labs attempts to address the need for innovative consumer experiences in converging products with digital services and new media.

Alexander saw that his electronic products no longer sold successfully in ‘traditional’ shops, suggesting that the conventional retail model is a leftover process of the industrial age, a process that works for big brands but not for smaller.

He claims that now in our ‘society of information’ a different distribution model is required, that small brands don’t need innovation in their products – what’s needed is innovation in shopping.

His showroom attempted to challenge both the traditional and Internet retail economies, specifically the current trend of ‘the last click’ – and pointed out Dixon’s recent advertising campaign which recognises that.

His showrooms are intended to be places for companies to connect with customers and to demonstrate their products, not places to perform actual transactions, but social spaces to engage.

Alexander has written an interesting article, titled ‘Goodbye high-street?’, which explores the thinking behind Digital Wellbeing Labs.

Alexander Grünsteidl – Digital Wellbeing Labs video and slides.

Jenhui Liao – The Self-Portrait Machine

Jenhui Liao, another RCA graduate, showed us his exhibition piece; the Self-Portrait Machine.

Jenhui works on the connections of humankind and machine, exploring the relationship and cooperation between humans and machines in the manufacturing process and the apparent dependency and inseparability that the two share.

He created a machine that takes a snapshot of the ‘user’, a person whose hands are immovably strapped the machine, holding marker pens, and moved around a canvas by a set of motors and devices in order to create their portrait in a ‘cooperative’ process.

Jenhui was intrigued by the cooperative roles of humans in manufacturing, working around (and even inside) machines.

He claims that similarly human identity is not independent of the machine-like workings of our society. That consumer buying and what we consider to be individual characteristics of our personalities are determined by mechanics outside of our control, that we are extensions of that machine.

He went on to consider the notion of a portrait, a single representation of a person, a traditionally selected and contrived choice.

His conception subverts that idea, partially removing choice by enslaving the human locked into his machine (which he named Geppetto) and forcing the human to recreate (and experience) the machine’s point of view.

Whilst their influence is limited, the participant can affect the outcome of portrait in choosing to cooperate with the machine (or not) by allowing or constricting their movements.

Jenhui Liao – The Self-Portrait Machine video and slides.

Last month I managed to get to This Happened London #7, another great night of inspiring talks showcasing recent innovations in digital art and interactive media.

Although it was nearly a month ago now, I noticed Chris O’Shea recently posted all the videos and presentations online, so thought I’d use that as an excuse to talk about it.

I’m always impressed with the evenings and inspirational talks, it’s incredible that they’re free – and you’re incredibly lucky if you manage to get hold of a ticket. I think the latest batch disappeared in about thirty seconds.

All the talks were great, but I especially want to mention Adam Cubitt of Glassworks.

Another former Bournemouth University student, a Computer Animation graduate, he led a team in collaboration with a host of anaesthetists and surgeons from the London Heart Hospital to create an incredible real-time, relative-sized interactive simulation of the human heart to assist in the teaching of transesophageal echocardiography to medical students.

The level of detail in the final model is astonishing, seemingly surpassing the expectations of everyone associated with the project. The medical staff themselves claim never to have seen anything quite to realistic or even expect that such a replication and project so ambitious could be so successful.

And as if the software alone isn’t impressive enough, students can actually use a specially developed probe on a mannequin connected to the system to visualise what the camera would actually be seeing inside a real human body, reacting (again in real-time) to it’s position and rotation within the chest cavity as a real echocardiography transducer would.

It really, really is worth a watch:

All the videos and presentation files (for all the talks) are on the This Happened site, or you watch the videos on their Vimeo channel.

There’s also a lot of content on Flickr – the This Happened London group, tags for thishappened-london-0309 and thishappened-london-7 and Twitter discussion with #thlon and updates from this_happened.

I was lucky enough to be of the 100 attendees for This Happened #6 at London’s BFI Southbank last night, as part of the Onedotzero Adventures in Motion.

Started last year, This Happened is a series of events focusing on the stories behind interaction design. Hosted by Chris O’Shea (Pixelsumo), Joel Gethin Lewis and Andreas Muller (Nanika), the evening showcased four recent works of interactive design, inviting speakers discus and present their creative process from conceptual brief through to installation.

First up was Markus Kison, Berlin based artist and creator of Touched Echo. He installed suspended speakers in to the structure of a railing at Brühl’s Terrace, Dresden, a popular tourist spot and a location most severely effected by the Dresden bombings of World War II.

Touched Echo

A discreet, minimalist installation, Touched Echo invites visitors to assume the position of the victims of the bombings on February 13th 1945, transforming them to performers as they cover their ears, creating a conductive connection from speaker, through railings and their bones to the inner ear, allowing them to hear the sounds of aeroplanes, the falling of bombs and sounds of explosions.

He noticed that although the location received many visitors, the visual landscape lacks a focus. So profound the difference but for the bombings, the gesture and immersive audio stimuli transports the visitor back in time but also acts as a modern, respectable memorial.

Next up was rAndom International, a London-based experimental design collective founded in 2005 by Hannes Koch, Stuart Wood and Flo Ortkrass. Their installation, Audience, recently at the Royal Opera House consisted of 64 head-size mirrors ‘objects’, motorised – and equally characterised – to interact with visitors and passers-by. Subverting the role of the opera goer from that of intending to watch, to be being (quite inescapably) watched themselves by an array of inquisitive and responsive objects.

It was only on for three days at the Opera House, I would have loved to have visited. As they said too, catching up via blog after-the-event can’t compare to the interactive experience:

Troika is a multi-disciplinary art and design practice, exhibiting their Cloud, a five meter long digital sculpture at the British Airways lounges at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

An interesting organic form but mechanical mass, the Cloud is a 3D shape with a surface of over 4000 ‘flip-dots’, those traditionally used for non-digital signage in train stations and airports. Controlled by bespoke ‘animation’ software able to address each dot individually, the end result is almost as memorising as it is calming, looping on 24-hour evolving cycles accompanied by the rippling sounds of each flip-dot ticking over.

Finally we had UnitedVisualArtists, presenting ‘Constellation’, a light-based sculptural intervention designed for the indoors of Covent Garden Market Halls.

A very grand architectural installation, it is made up of 264 LED-strip lights hung from the cavernous space, cycling sequences of lights and patterns across the ceiling for the Christmas season. There’s also a touch screen interactive surface, allowing visitors to control individual lights or affect sweeping gestures across the structure.

It opens tomorrow night, hopefully I should be able to attend and give it a go.

Adam Neate gave way 1,000 more paintings to the public yesterday, claiming the streets of London as his public gallery. As afternoon dusk fell, hundreds of volunteers distributed the screen printings across the 32 boroughs of London.

Covered by the BBC, Independent and countless art sources online, try as I might scouring streets of Dalston, Hackney and Shoreditch last night, I returned empty handed.

Elms Letters has a great quote about what he’s doing. Printed on cardboard and shrink-wrapped in cellophane, there’s a deliberate attempt to blur the boundary between painting, print and product:

“I remember as a kid going into Woolworths and seeing laminated prints of that famous Tretchikoff painting ‘The Chinese Girl’ and thinking it was great that people could have that iconic image at home for next to nothing. I’m hoping that for some people who come across one of these new paintings, they’ll pick it up not because they recognise it as one of mine, but just because they connect with the image and would like to hang it on their wall.”

Tonight I head down to BFI Southbank for This Happened, a series of events focusing on interaction design, part of the Onedotzero Adventures in Motion.

Report back tomorrow.

We gotta get out while we’re young.