Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Impress: possiblities, extentsions and implications

Typically the human-technology relationship carries an air of physical rigidity. Computer displays, digitizers and other devices used by designers and artists are constructed of materials that are all too often cold and stiff. While devices that respond to touch and input through specialized sensors do exist these links between the real and virtual yield little to the tactile presence and provide practically no feedback to users extending beyond the visual domain. This sets up a one way street for input that limits the relationship between the tool and the user.

Artists working with materials like clay, metal, wood and plastics rely on the feedback provided by these materials. Each material, weather worked by hand or tool, responds to the presence of the maker on a physical and sensible level. This responsiveness enriches the human-material relationship. At the level of the designer and artist, creating tools that provide sensory feedback beyond the visual domain enriches the human-technology relationship; making way for a more engaging and inviting experience while affording opportunities for new interactive scenarios related to the design and creation of objects and environments.

This all comes to mind when I encounter technology like the Impress display unit. Combining a force sensitive display with an array of applications, this technology presents a unit that begins to provide a more interactive environment. Though it appears a rough model, having an almost toy-like quality, it does establish in crude form a two way path for feedback between users and technology. The foam bed harboring force sensors responds the touch of a user with about a 4" threshold. This display has a few immediate uses based on sound, topography, and browsing.

What I find most interesting is its potential. Increase the size, perhaps the shape and form, develop a method for changing the threshold, elastic response and sensitivity, connect it to specialized software like GIS or Autocad and there you have it, a modeling tool that works with human touch. Enriched interfaces like this could be used to shape and form surfaces and infrastructure in the virtual domain. Integrate this display with real time software application and the products of this combination may very well be the architectural landscapes of future cities. The possibilities go beyond topographic modeling but I will leave the imagination to do the rest.


impress - flexible display from Sillenet on Vimeo.

Images via: Dis.play

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