Robert Kniese Dissertation
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InteractiveWall, a prototype for an emotive architectural component
MarkDavid Hosale and Chris Kievid
The emotive InteractiveWall is a dynamic wall composed of seven separate wall components that display real-time behaviour. The components bend themselves back and forth, displaying patterns of light on their skins, and projecting localized sound in response to the presence of a participant. As architecture becomes emotive, responsive, and interactive participants can influence its behaviour. In that sense architecture follows a general development in society towards participation, personalization and customization, which follows the evolution of contemporary mundane technologies. It is through projects such as the InteractiveWall that we can explore the possibilities of emotive architecture. It is through projects such as the InteractiveWall prototype that architecture will come alive.
The InteractiveWall is an architectural-scale installation work commissioned by Festo, a leading worldwide supplier of pneumatic and electrical automation technology, for their presentation at the Hannover Messe 2009, the world's leading showcase for industrial technology. The InteractiveWall was a collaboration between Festo, Burkhardt Leitner constructiv, and Hyperbody, as part of the Festo Bionic Learning Network. The InteractiveWall is composed of seven wall components based on the Fin Ray Effect , a proprietary technology used in Festo's factory automation.
[Figure 1][Figure 2]
Participation in the InteractiveWall project provided Hyperbody with an opportunity to develop a prototype for an emotive architectural component. An emotive architectural component is a component that responds to the participant, a wall that has a character, a wall that can move because it wants to, and displays real-time behaviour. Applying behaviour to the InteractiveWall prototype is an important step towards the development of emotive architecture; it transforms the wall from a static backdrop to a key component in a dynamic customizable environment.
Another approach to defining the concept of emotive architecture is through the exploration of semantic constraints. The term emotive can be expanded with the permutation e-motive, allowing the e to become electronic, emotional, engaging, emergent, informing the emotion. These terms in turn are driven by the motive, the intent, and the motion. In this way e-motive describes the emotional and kinetic aspects of an architecture that is data driven, transforming architecture from a vessel of information to a means to express information.
Kas Oosterhuis defines interactive architecture as the art of building relationships between built components in the first place, and building relations between people and built components in the second place. Oosterhuis stresses the need for interactive architecture to be proactive, actively establishing connections in real time, and communicating with its internal and external context . At the heart of the emotive InteractiveWall prototype lies interactivity; it builds upon the alliance between two active parties (both transmitters and receivers). Intuitive and immediate, interactive architecture must be able to behave in unique and unpredictable ways. It no longer has a static end-configuration, the role of the actor shifts from that of the viewer to one of an interactive participant. In this sense, interactive architecture is an instrument to be played by its context and its participants.
The motivation for the development of interactive architecture is a response to the demand of programmable, multi-mediated, dynamic, flexible, and customizable environmental conditions of the digital age. Interactivity has entered the fabric of public and private domains. In this context the emerging of interactivity in architecture manifests itself as the inevitable evolution of architecture. As the paradigm shifts in the international architectural discourse, emotive and interactive architectures are transforming and revolutionizing our social life and the domestic built environment. Inventing entirely new ways of using and designing space incites us to explore new ways of embodying user participation and locality.
As described above, the development of the interaction design for the InteractiveWall provided a unique opportunity to explore the theoretical concepts of interaction using a real world architectural-scale building component. It was from this context that a multimodal spontaneously synchronous system (described below) was designed. To this end, Hyperbody followed a methodical approach to interactive design that attempted to provide meaningful interaction with a participant by moving beyond a superficial one-to-one cause and effect interaction and designing a one-to-many interactive system that exhibited emergent behaviour and performed liked a living system. A living system embedded in an architectural component, transforming an otherwise static component into living architecture.
In order for an interactive system to be meaningful it must be believable. A reference to being submerged in water, the term immersion is a widely used metaphor to describe the experience of being saturated in a subject or situation. In other words, the term immersion could be used to describe the believability of an interactive system. Saturation occurs in contexts whereby artificial realities can be constructed. In an interactive system this is achieved through loudspeakers, lights, projections and, in the case of the InteractiveWall, movement. In order for a constructed reality to be truly immersive it must be believable as well as controlled. Therefore, an immersive artwork can be judged by how well it helps the participant create belief .
In a believable constructed reality a participant often assumes certain roles based on past experiences and familiar cues that are taken from their understanding of the contexts being presented. Through role-play the actions of the participant increase believability by attributing meaning to the constructed reality. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the participant chooses to assume the implied role through his or her behaviour. In contexts that encourage a more active range of participation the participant is given greater latitude over choice and action within the constructed reality, further facilitating their ability to create belief. The conditions described here of participant role-play empowered by choice are examples of the concept of agency.
The issue of agency underscores the need for interactivity in the construction of immersive contexts: the more active the participant, the greater the sense of agency and the greater the sense of agency, the greater facility for the participant to create belief. Therefore as the sense of empowerment increases through interaction, so does the sense of agency. This relationship between the participant and the system is a reciprocal relationship, which according to Mark Meadows, takes place over 4 steps: 1) Observation: The reader (or participant) makes an assessment, 2) Exploration: The reader does something, 3) Modification: The reader changes the system, and 4) Reciprocal Change: The system tries to change the reader. According to Meadows, 'interactivity is a bidirectional conduit. It's a response. Interaction is a relationship. It's mutually executed change.' .
The characteristics of immersion, agency, and interaction compose one of the building blocks needed for the construction of nonlinear narratives as described in MarkDavid Hosale's Ph.D. dissertation, Nonlinear Media As Interactive Narrative. The foundation of this approach lies in the development of nonlinear narrative structures and layers of dynamic processes that act as a living system. The totality of this living system is what Hosale describes as the Universe of the work, a narrative construct built of 'a world of worlds,' with each world forming a complex layer in the system:
A world not only encompasses the space of the constructed immersive reality of a work, it encompasses the imagined constructed immersive reality that exists in the observer's imagination as well. In this sense the world is more than the work itself; it is a set of operations, structures and semiotics that form the processes, which are beyond the format of the presentation of the work .
Therefore, a living system is a system that will change and evolve whether or not a participant is present, it doesn't wait to react; it always exists. The living system is a complex system of layered and connected behaviours operating on many scales and in many modalities simultaneously. The living system behaves independently, following its own patterns of ebb and flow. A living system is also connected to its environment, responding to users, and other input, expressing outside influences through its various modalities. When considering these concepts in the development of the interaction design of the InteractiveWall it was not enough to design a system that simply caused a wall component to move when a participant was present. Rather a participant introduces an interruption to the processes unfolding in the living system of the InteractiveWall. This interruption changes the path of the behavioural processes of the InteractiveWall, causing it to reconcile the interruption with its normal ebb and flow by dissipating the energy of the interruption throughout the various scales and modalities of the InteractiveWall's interactive system.
The overall behavioural pattern of the InteractiveWall is inspired by the phenomenon of emergent synchrony as described in the book Sync: the emerging science of spontaneous order by Steven Strogatz ). Spontaneous order is a characteristic found throughout nature in systems ranging from physical phenomenon to complex social behaviours, which can be observed as spontaneous sync. In his book, Strogatz asserts that this synchronous behaviour is guided by a simple set of rules: a) Individual elements are only aware of their nearest neighbours. b) The elements have a tendency to line-up in relation to each other. c) While the elements follow each other, they are attracted at a distance. d) Response to stimulus.
One way Strogatz illustrates the phenomenon spontaneous synchronicity is through the behaviour of the firefly. Fireflies have a tendency to synchronize their flashing tails whenever they are near each other. Through the cumulative effect of their flashing tails complex patterns emerge out of a simple localized behaviour of emergent sync. Although they are fairly simple animals, the fireflies are incredibly able to maintain this sync behaviour even when they are swarming by the thousands.
The characteristic of the spontaneous synchronous behaviour as expressed in the motion of the InteractiveWall is illustrated in Figure 3. As shown in step 1, the InteractiveWall components are aligned in a row on the show room floor in seven components. In step 2 participants approach the InteractiveWall and the components of the wall react to the participants by bending away from them in response to their presence. The bending is a local response, with each component bending independently based on the distance of the participant from the node. While the primary synchronous behaviour of the firefly is flashing light, the primary synchronous behaviour of the InteractiveWall is movement. The components of the InteractiveWall bend independently of neighbouring components in response to the presence of a participant. Although responsively independent, the Interactive components also synchronize by constantly readjusting their positions in order to align with the position of their nearest neighbours. If the wall is left alone it ultimately comes to a resting state as shown in step 1 of Figure 3. The synchronous behaviour between the components of the InteractiveWall conflicts directly with the asynchronous behaviour produced by the response to a participant. The result is a series of complex wave patterns that propagate through the InteractiveWall as a whole; this is illustrated in the three phases of step 3.
As both sides of the InteractiveWall are responsive to participants, the InteractiveWall must negotiate how to respond to participant input when detecting the prescience of participants on both sides of a component. Because of this the behaviour of the InteractiveWall has a game like quality as well (Figure 4). The game behaviour is designed so that an InteractiveWall component will favour the participant who is closest to the wall by responding only to that participant. As a result the participant furthest away from a component becomes even more repelled as the component pushes them farther away from the structure, while the winning participant is rewarded and sheltered by the arc of the component's curved form.
A summary of the behaviour of the InteractiveWall is best stated in the context of the description of designing interactivity provided above. The InteractiveWall is motivated by an independent system built on synchronous behaviour. This system is then interrupted by the game-like response of multi-participant interaction. The result is then propagated throughout the body of the InteractiveWall. The result of this action provides the participant with a greater understanding of the system motivating the InteractiveWall, encouraging them to explore further, and engage with the InteractiveWall system. The engagement thus follows the intended cycle of observation, exploration, modification, and reciprocal change desired in the interaction design concept.
Although the focus of the discussion of behaviour above was focused on movement, the InteractiveWall is a multimodal interactive system composed of movement, light, and sound. Each modality of the InteractiveWall is a layer of interactive communication connected through the synchronous behaviour described above, while remaining independent in terms of its mode of expression of the current synchronous state.
The skin of each component of the InteractiveWall is covered by a unique, irregular distribution of dynamically controlled LEDs that form a highly reactive interface (Figure 5). The LEDs are controlled individually and are used to create patterns of light that glide across the body of the InteractiveWall component. The LED skin doesn't respond directly to the presence of a participant, but indirectly by changing in response to the motion of the body of the InteractiveWall component. As the InteractiveWall component bends outward, the patterns of light become more agitated, moving rapidly over the skin of the component. When resting the light patterns on the wall become tranquil, moving in a calm and pleasant manner.
As with the light patterns, the modality of sound is localized, representing only the state of the local sync of a particular InteractiveWall component. Moments of synchronicity are represented by calmer, lower pitched sounds, while asynchronous behaviour results in more intense sound. The propagation of the sound from high to low intensity is varied throughout the InteractiveWall, transforming each node into a member of a choir that sings a complex pattern of oscillating chords.
The inter-component synchronous and asynchronous behaviours (and resulting wave patterns) described in the modality of movement above are present in the light and sound modalities as much as they are present in the behaviour found in the movement. Although connected, the physical movements of InteractiveWall components, the light patterns, and the sound behaviour change independently, reacting at varying rates, expressing the state of the InteractiveWall component in a unique manner (Figure 6). These components contribute to the living system as scaled and modulated expressions of the synchronous and game-like systems described above. The perceived sum of the behaviour of the three modalities results in a layering of complex synchronous, asynchronous, convergent, and divergent patterns that propagate through the InteractiveWall structure as a whole.
Festo's commission to develop the interactive design for the InteractiveWall presented at the Hannover Messe industrial trade fair provided Hyperbody with an architectural-scale prototype for the exploration of emotive architecture. The motivation for the development of interactive architecture is a response to the demand of programmable, multi-mediated, dynamic, flexible, and customizable environmental conditions of the digital age.
At the heart of emotive architecture is interactivity. Therefore, the development of emotive architecture requires an interactive design that is a multimodal spontaneously synchronous system that exhibits the characteristics of immersion, agency, and bidirectional feedback. From this perspective the interactive system is a living system that expresses interactive input from participants as an interruption to a continuously evolving system propagating through its various scales and modalities. Intuitive and immediate, interactive architecture must be able to behave in unique and unpredictable ways. It no longer has a static end-configuration, the role of the actor shifts from that of the viewer to one of an interactive participant. In this sense, interactive architecture is an instrument to be played by its context and its participants.
Although the work completed in the InteractiveWall project is a small step towards the larger exploration of question of architecture, it has provided Hyperbody with a greater insight into the development of emotive architectural components. Starting from a clear interactive design concept, we developed a one-to-many interactive system that exhibited emergent behaviour and performed liked a living system. The result is an independent system built on synchronous behaviour that is interrupted by the game-like response of multi-participant interaction. This layered system encourages the intended cycle of observation, exploration, modification, and reciprocal change in the participant, reinforcing believability in the system, and providing a sense of agency to the user.
As interactivity has entered the fabric of public and private domains, the emerging of interactivity in architecture manifests itself as an inevitable evolution of architecture. As the paradigm shifts in the international architectural discourse, emotive and interactive architecture are transforming and revolutionizing our social life and the domestic built environment. By inventing entirely new ways of using and designing space that embody user participation and locality, we will transform architecture from a static environment to one that is customizable and dynamic, emergent and alive.
1. Kniese, Leif, (Germany: European Patent EP 1 316 651 A2, 2003a); Kniese, Leif, (Germany: European Patent EP 1 203 640 A3, 2003b).
2. Oosterhuis, Kas, 'Introduction / Editorial', in: Kas Oosterhuis, Xin Xia (eds), iA#1 (Rotterdam: episode publishers, 2007).
3. Murray, Janet Horowitz, Hamlet on the holodeck : the future of narrative in cyberspace (New York: Free Press, 1997).
4. Meadows, Mark Stephen, Pause & effect : the art of interactive narrative (Indianapolis, Ind.: New Riders, 2003)
5. Hosale, MarkDavid, Nonlinear Media As Interactive Narrative (Santa Barbara: University of California, Santa Barbara, 2008).
6. Strogatz, Steven H.,Sync : the emerging science of spontaneous order (New York: Hyperion, 2003).