A weekly round up of news and views from the tech, creative and business world.
Vive la é-volution!
Digital Revolution, The Barbican’s latest awe-inspiring exhibition, traces the history of digital technology and offers an explosive taste of contemporary interactive arts.
Without giving too much away, users can expect to see: Will.i.am’s giant face, the cutest lamp you’ve ever met, the special effects behind the film Gravity, beautiful digital artwork from Chris Milk, Aaron Koblin, James Bridle and Field, a selection of interactive music videos including Radiohead and Arcade Fire, and a diverse display of the winners of the Barbican’s DevArt collaboration with Google. And this is just a teaser.
Of particular note are Chris Milk’s ‘The Treachery of Sanctuary’, a monumental installation that plays with the user’s shadow, and Assemblence from Umbrellium, an atmospheric and immersive interactive laser show, where secrets are unlocked by particular user actions. Another favourite, James George and Jonathan Minards’ ‘Clouds’, uses a data-driven story engine set in real-time. Navigating by gesture, every viewing is unique to an individual’s response and their own input. These interactive environments will make you think twice about what constitutes ‘art’ today.
A panel discussion on this theme of ‘digital art’ accompanied the opening weekend, with many of the above artists and curators discussing their use of digital technology and their role in the wider art world. Audiences are taught to consume art through the understanding that it comes from a single attributable name, and is sold through single pieces or editions. The very aspects which can help make digital art commissions possible, such as collaborative working and investment from organisations, are the things excluding it from the conventional art market. No wonder the panel, who each felt their work was well received, did not feel part of the art world. Marcus Wendt from Field argued this is a good thing – the ability to take on commercial work in order to sustain a life of creative expression opens the doors to more opportunities and stops him from getting “burned out.”
The exhibition, whether viewed as art, experimentation, product or ‘stuff,’ is an exciting, enthralling explosion of genre-defying pieces that reward curiosity. The breadth and diversity of its contents is a testament to how digital techniques and processes have been embraced by the creative industries, and how interactive art continues to inspire in ways that enrich both the worlds of technology and art.
Exception to the Dave rule
It isn’t news to anybody that the tech world is dominated by males, and the story waxes and wanes around events like Google publishing data on the diversity of their workforce, (and Twitter not publishing theirs), and news of the ‘Dave Rule.’ The problem was revisited last week when it was revealed that one of the cofounders of Tinder is a giant d-bag. Whitney Wolfe’s departure from the company is particularly disappointing given Tinder was initially touted for its female-friendly environment – due in part to one of the founders being a woman.
Unfortunately, as we’ve discussed before, the solution isn’t as simple as bringing more women into tech jobs, it’s also about keeping them— which will require a reshaping of the environment that tech work takes place in; from the culture, to the communications, to the way events are run, and so on…
An imbalanced workforce also means businesses are depriving themselves of finding natural empathy with all their consumers. IDEO is already learning from this, as is evident from its recent hire, 90-years-young Barbara Beskind. Beskind is working with IDEO to help them design around and overcome problems that people run into as they age. As IDEO show, the benefits of a more diverse workforce go way beyond the status of simply being politically correct.
3D at our fingertips – literally
3D printing gets dexterous this week. Scientists at MIT are developing a device which reads aloud to visually impaired people, in real time. The 3D printed device can be placed on a finger like a ring, with an attached camera which recognises text and reads the words via a synthesised voice. The FingerReader can be used to read text on printed material, which is especially useful in situations such as doctor visits, where small-scale content like prescriptions are often not produced in braille. The next stage is to enable the tech on a mobile device, (early tests show the touch-screen function is confusing the FingerReader camera).
In one of the more useful adoptions of 3D tech that we’ve seen from a large corporation, BMW received a big thumbs up from employees after using 3D printing to physically augment factory workers, giving them stronger thumbs. The 3D-printed thumb supports reduce strain on the thumb joint, easing joint pain for factory-line employees. Every worker’s thumb was scanned using a 3D camera, to create bespoke gloves with a stiff thumb splint made of hard plastic and silicone. The customised fit of the structure affords joint flexibility, but locks into place when the digit is raised into a ‘thumbs-up’ position.
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