CrossLab — Sensory Shopping

Investigating the power of senses, shopping and new media

Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Links for the coming projects.

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on April 15, 2008

You all might be wondering aside from simple technologies how you might use new media in your project concepts.

Here’s a couple of links to some interesting things I’ve come across:

Directional sound. This company has discovered that by using white noise you can direct sound to specific spots, where only the sound can be heard on that location. It is used mostly in libraries, where public announcements can occur in a small area, and not disturb the rest of the reading public (shhh).

Maggie Orth. The original interactive textiles developer. Dr. Orth studied at MIT where much of her work was in tactile textiles, allowing for the integration of computers, sensors and circuits, into interactive fabrics. A pioneer who has inspired many people including Joey Berzowska, Di Mainstone, and Marina Toeters.

Hans Laube. The inventor of Smell-o-Vision, a 60s phenomenon where odor was released during a movie viewing. A great idea way before its time. And it was only used once.

Simon Heijdens. Light, nature and moving images are the inspiration for much of what this London based, Dutch designer works with. Of particular interest is the moving wallpaper…use of circuits and temperature sensitive paint create a series of changing patterns on the wall. Of particular interest is the temperature sensitive paint

Hypercolor….a blast from (my) past. Does anyone else remember these? The worst part was the color the shirt became when you washed it in too hot water.


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Where to find important information…

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on April 11, 2008

We have been using a blog in this Visual Merchandising class in order to collect information, share ideas and make use of digital software to create our own database of inspiration and links. Using this format, you will find that there are lots of places where you will also find important and interesting information.

Perhaps the best blog for our purposes to reference is called We Make Money Not Art. This blog is a great repository of all kinds of information, mostly from the art world, but really rich in new media content. This blog is set up much like our own, with categories listed on the sidebar to all the areas where information is discussed and posted.

For example, you can find information on biometrics at this site, but instead of being purely technical, it is discussing how artists are making use of this information. Check it out and you will also find that there will be lots of postings regarding sensory experience and how other artists and designers deal with these issues.

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Steve Mann — MIT

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on April 11, 2008

Steve Mann is a scientist from MIT.  For years he has been experimenting with wearable computing, and has been connecting himself with sensors, gadgets and computers to the internet.  He is a pioneer in this field and he is worth writing about.  You can read more about him here.

Why do I blog this?

What Mann is doing is very similar to the assignment I’d like you to think about when you are developing your concept.  How do we use new media in a new way?  How do we make use of the power of internet and electronic devices in our daily lives, in particular, as visual merchandising designers?  Though Steve Mann is extreme for our case, it is worth writing and reading about him because much of what he has done is becoming reality.  And it is important to be aware of his ideas and his work.  How can you use his research in your own design concepts?

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Maarten Wijntjes

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on April 8, 2008

It is unfortunate that Maarten could only be present on Tuesday, because I think everyone deserved a chance to see him present his own work, and to ask him questions directly.

However, either way, it went very well. Once again, what seems to be a simple assignment opens up lots of interesting questions. How do we know what we touch, where does that information come from? Do we create visualizations of shape in our heads? How do we store this information? How do we translate touch (or words!) into visuals and recognize them?

And on the other side: how do we as designers make sense of the touch vocabulary we have to describe various physical things? We discuss things such as hard or soft light, warm or cool colours, heavy or light moods….these are all descriptors related to touch, but we can not touch any of these things! What do these descriptors mean, and why do we relate them to physical features we understand with our hands? How can you really tell if light is hard, or soft, when you can’t actually touch it?

Photos to be posted very shortly.

Speaking of touching light, check out the work of Anthony McCall who recently had a retrospective exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London. A must experience work if you want to have a discussion about the physical aspects of light…

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What’s with the rabbit?

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on March 23, 2008

392px-alice-white-rabbit.jpgNot that I am a fan of their product, but this add seems to be addressing what we are talking about in our assignments and on our blogs. Douwe Egbert’s new advertising campaign is called The World of Black.

Do you dare? Blindfolded even? I think they should have done the ad campaign in Dudok, myself…

I’m guessing the white rabbit is a reference to Alice? Or is it a reference to the old fable that I learned in Canada while sitting around the campfire? (oh, and it does work…).

Now that you guys are experts on blindfolded sensory experiences, what do you think? Comments anyone?

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Christian Nold

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on March 18, 2008

Today, Aldje from CrossLab sent me this link, and I thought it would be great to share.

Seems to be tackling exactly the issues we’re trying to deal with, but in a more artistic format. Check out his link Sensory Deprivation and see how he is dealing with the experiment we did only a few weeks ago.

Why do I blog this?

Sensory stimulation is a topic of major concern as we shift towards a media rich and visually dependant culture. There is a critical need for artists and designers to create not only experiences that remove our sensory stimulation supplanted by digital media or visual dreaming. Instead, digital technologies should be a supplement to heighten our awareness of our environments and our abilities to communicate within them.

[stepping off the soapbox now]

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Digital menus?

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on March 18, 2008

I take the train quite a bit here in the Netherlands and there’s always something interesting to read in the free papers that litter the seats from the morning rush. Today, in the metro, I read an interesting bit over the transition many restaurants are making towards the digital waiter, or menus.

The article (in dutch) discusses the trend towards a digital screen at your table in the restaurant where you can select your dining choices by simply pressing the screen and voila! it arrives at your table. No more waiter.

Why do I blog this?

I find this a disappointing trend, since the personal touch of discussing your choices with a waiter (and asking what’s good today) are on the verge of extinction. But the article is interesting because it opens lots of new ground to visual merchandising students…how do you communicate the taste of the beef sirloin on an internet screen? How can you display that the fish is truly tasty, with a hint of lemon and coriander to tickle your palette? Things to consider in this class as we move forward…

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Dutch Mobile Gaming in Japan

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on March 11, 2008

Mobile games are a hot new market. Next generation mobiles, like the iPhone are pretty amazing gadgets, and there’s lots of interesting development from software developers making use of the hardware in these devices to make new kinds of games, interfaces and interactions.

When I returned from Dubai, a friend from Canada who has a mobile gaming company called Bight Games phoned me to tell me he was in Utrecht for a presentation of Dutch designers working on gaming platforms for a large tradeshow in Japan. So, yesterday, I was off to Utrecht to see the presentations for this competition.

Why do I blog this?

apple-iphone.jpgMobiles are no longer just telephones: they are powerful computers that fit into your pocket that include music, agendas, GPS, internet and gyroscopic hardware. In short, they are powerful tools that can be used as new media devices. As the class goes forward, we will be making proposals for integrating new media into the shopping experience. Don’t forget that ‘new media’ is an open category. It means more than just a blog, or the internet. It can also mean mobiles, or navigation systems like the Tom-Tom. How can you use and introduce these technologies in a Visual Merchandising framework? Something to think about in your project proposals…

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The Pretpark that is Dubai…

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on March 10, 2008

So…while you guys are running around Rotterdam blindfolded, I’m stuck in a construction site in Dubai on a workshop. I have to confess, Dubai is the most curious of places, but not somewhere I would ever consider as a holiday destination. Though I enjoyed the weather, and took lots of photos, I don’t believe it is a destination I will ever return to.

Burj al Arab

The Burj

The Burj al Arab, perhaps the most famous landmark of Dubai, is a nice building, if you can get to it. The grounds are not accessible without a reservation and a hefty entrance fee. If you walk around towards the west side, you’ll come into the Souk Madinat, a large shopping and dining concourse that resembles a historic arabian market…but like most everything else in Dubai, it is a re-construction (a polite term for absolutely fake.) At night, however, the lightshow from the Burj is striking and well worth pausing and watching, as it shifts through the colour spectrum very subtly.

pers_gulf2.jpgThe Beach

I love swimming in the sea, and it is a treat to be able to swim in March, particularly when it is so warm. The wind was very strong on this particular day, but if you were not in the wind it was almost 30 degrees…nice change from the damp and chilly Rotterdam spring. What’s curious about this photo is that there are signs everywhere outlining that it is illegal to take pictures on the beach…(so how did I do it?) Of course, I wasn’t the only one sneaking a pic or two…

ski2.jpg Ski Dubai

So, from the beach to the slopes is possible with only a cab-ride in the desert. Here is Ski Dubai, the indoor skihill found at the Mall of the Emirates, perhaps the largest mall I’ve ever been in. It is full with all the top brands from the West, including a Krispy Kreme, arguably the makers of the best donuts on the planet. What was really strange about Ski Dubai, however, was the lighting. It was so well done, that it appears to be a cloudy, overcast snowy day somewhere on a hill where the snow is real. Someone paid a great deal of attention to the entire setup and didn’t miss one detail. Thought I didn’t go skiing myself, a colleague tells me that there is even a small chalet on the mountain where you can get hot chocolate to warm yourself.


The ‘real’ souk

Perhaps the nicest part of Dubai for me, aside from the beach, was the old Golden Souk in the ‘centre’ (Dubai really doesn’t have a city centre…Dubai just is). The Gold Souk, however, if you go back towards the river of the old city, has how trading was originally, and still is. This photo shows huge pallets of everything you can imagine, from bags of rice, furniture, appliances … you name it. This is where (I’m told) the merchants from Dubai come to get their goods to sell in their shops. An outdoor distribution warehouse, in some sense. Perhaps the most real thing about Dubai I saw.

Why do I blog this?

Aside from the fact that it is cool to say I’ve been to Dubai, I think it is an interesting exercise in a planned city that is, in essence, one giant shopping experience. There appears to be nothing more than malls. shops, hotels and mosques in the Dubai that I saw, and it doesn’t try to hide the fact that it is all catered towards a Western clientele. Is this the future of cities? Do we need to plan our urban spaces so that they support more shopping, and are catered towards one kind of sensory experience and rely heavily on the visual appearances to create a kind of nostalgic atmosphere? In short, Dubai seems nothing more than the evolution of Disneyland, merged with daily life, but it seems no one I met is actually from there…none of the shop owners, taxi drivers or waitstaff actually live in Dubai! So who does?

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Other things from the weekend…

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on March 3, 2008

Perhaps last week was the voorjaarsvakantie, but that didn’t stop me from finding lots of interesting links and things relating to the Sensory Shopping course. Here’s a sample of somethings I found this weekend:

Technology brings smell to gallery

An old exhibition in Boston where artists are tackling the relationship between full sensory experience and art. The exhibition was at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center.

What was interesting in this article was the following quote:

“The point of Tolaas’s project and of “Sensorium” as a whole is partly to prompt thought about how new technologies are influencing sensory experience and, in turn, contemporary consciousness. But the show is also an argument about art. Against the traditional notion of art as a primarily visual experience, it proposes that for art to be relevant today, it needs to engage all our senses and address all the ways that our senses have been extended, amplified, and otherwise altered by new technologies. “

Contrast this with a spread in this weekends De Pers supplement about technology and fashion called Draag je Emotie (no link unfortunately). This article talks about how fashion is also adopting technologies to integrate with new modes of production and styles of fashion. The article talks about a number of artists and designers that are experimenting with some interesting results. Here are a few names and links from the article to investigate further:

Olivier Goulet: This french artist/designer is making bags, jackets and dresses that are created from human skin. The skin, though synthetic, is very convincing, and the results are quite creepy.

Di Mainstone: Graduate of Central St. Martins in London, Di is presently artist-in-residence at V2 here in Rotterdam, working on a project called Sharewear.

Other links from the article that are worth looking at:

Why do I blog this?

It is interesting to see how important the technical components are becoming in everyday life as they can be intergrated quite easily into textiles (my own graduate project at the Design Academy Eindhoven is another example). But some of these projects appear to be merely technical exercises, things that are possible, but not necessarily necessary (my work included). Scarves that cry for attention out of loneliness when their owners forget to wear them are technically fascinating, but I can imagine also lose their appeal quite quickly. Do I need this type of technology in my life? I suppose we need these artists to consider the impossible and make them real…someone else may find a useful, practical application for this technology later on. It seems to me that if I already have difficulty expressing myself in a society based on individual anonymity, a crying scarf, or a dress that expresses my emotions for me througj LEDs is simply another step further away from understanding my own sensory experiences…now I just have to program my shirt to have those experiences for me. To me this work is yet an example of how powerful the sensory experiences are, but lacks in critical thought how the person behind the shirt wants to experience them directly — not through mediated technical gadgetry devoid of human feeling, I suspect.

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