Blogs Media Lab

Job Opening in New Media

The Walker is going to be hiring for a New Media Designer position soon. The new designer will fill my role in this team of 4 people. The Walker’s New Media Department creates and excutes all the computer related designs for the art center and mnartists.org. This includes the online presence, dynamic signage projects and […]

The Walker is going to be hiring for a New Media Designer position soon. The new designer will fill my role in this team of 4 people. The Walker’s New Media Department creates and excutes all the computer related designs for the art center and mnartists.org. This includes the online presence, dynamic signage projects and interactive installations.

There are all kinds of wonderful gushy things I could say about this job (I’m sure I will in a later “ Goodbye” post) but if your reading this blog you probably know what we do, if not look around the site or leave a comment on this post. The official job description and information for applying is on our jobs site. All applicants should submit their material by Friday June 9.

Google makes AJAX easier

We’ve been looking around for a while at which of our current projects could benefit most from adding some AJAX pieces like sorting, dynamic sub-refreshes, quick menus, etc. The jury’s still out, since we don’t want to do it “just to do it”, but now I know what tool I want to use: the just-released […]

We’ve been looking around for a while at which of our current projects could benefit most from adding some AJAX pieces like sorting, dynamic sub-refreshes, quick menus, etc. The jury’s still out, since we don’t want to do it “just to do it”, but now I know what tool I want to use: the just-released Google Web Toolkit.

The toolkit basically lets you write and debug(!!) your AJAX application using your favorite Java IDE (they provide nice hooks for Eclipse). While developing you can test it in an integrated “browser” in the JVM — access to debugger — or in a standalone Javascript/HTML web browser. Also important, they integrate support for manipulating the back/forward button stacks so those finally can do the right thing in your AJAX page. Sweet.

Lots more reading and investigating to do on my part, but this is huge. I’ve had some exposure to Google Maps API and been impressed with the functionality, and it seemed obvious that something like this was going to follow. It’s different than I thought (Java) but makes sense. They claim comparable code sizes and speed compared to hand-written AJAX, but the development / debug cycle will be so much quicker it makes some performance hit worthwhile.

Terrain, Touch and Symbolic Tables

Terrain Table I found infromation about the TerrainTable on the site of defense mega-contactor Northrop Grumman. TerrainTable creates scale 3 dimensional maps on a table top. Mechanical pins in the table distort a silicone skin to create the terrain, color and detail are acheived through an overhead projector, apparently that stretchy skin responds to touch. […]

Terrain Table

terrain

I found infromation about the TerrainTable on the site of defense mega-contactor Northrop Grumman. TerrainTable creates scale 3 dimensional maps on a table top. Mechanical pins in the table distort a silicone skin to create the terrain, color and detail are acheived through an overhead projector, apparently that stretchy skin responds to touch. There is actually very little detail on the Northrop Gummans site but there is a link to this PDF. — source

Touch Table

Touch Table

This is a multitouch screen with multiple configurations, some of which are shown in this video. Currently there are two models available, the multiscreen TT84 and the single screen TT45. The Touch Table’s primary use appears to be tactical planning for government disaster and civil and military response teams. TouchTable was created by by Applied Minds (more on them). In this video the announcer quotes a $65k pricetag for the table, although I’m sure the majority of that goes toward some very expensive software. There is exetended user footage from a conference here. It looks like TouchTable is a gesture interface engine and at least the TT84 screen is a top down projection screen.

Symbolic Table

Animal Here

Billed as an “interface free media player” although that is not accurate it does’t have a traditional computer interface. In fact it does not even have a screen. To interact the user places an object (a plastic horse seen in the picture) on the table. The table then reads and RFID chip in the object and plays a media file, either a sound file or a projected video. Images of the prototype look very rough, but an interactive media player with no visible computer interface could be very intuitive and fun. — source

Invasion of the iPod people

Watching last night’s broadcast of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, my ears perked up on a segment about the impact of the iPod. Since its introduction in 2001, Apple’s iPod has been transforming the landscape of technology and culture. From a must-have among snowboarders at the recent Olympics to new cars that come iPod-ready, the […]

Watching last night’s broadcast of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, my ears perked up on a segment about the impact of the iPod. Since its introduction in 2001, Apple’s iPod has been transforming the landscape of technology and culture. From a must-have among snowboarders at the recent Olympics to new cars that come iPod-ready, the report suggested that people are as interested in what the iPod says about who they are as the opportunities the technology gives them to control their environment.

What some scholars refer to as the “ podification” of society–now there’s a word I hadn’t added to my vocabulary–was reported as just the latest chapter in a continuing story of technology and culture. From the remote control, VCR, to Sony Walkman, the personalization of technology allows us to exercise almost complete control over our environment and contributes to what Christine Rosen calls “ egocasting,” the thoroughly personalized and extremely narrow pursuit of one’s personal taste.

So, what does it mean if we’re all walking around with iPod buds stuffed in our ears? Isolated, “ alone together,” propagating the “ hear only what we want to hear” mentality would be the downside. The more positive outlook recognizes a democratizing impulse encouraged by the technology, and educational opportunities at all levels of the spectrum that provide students with potential audiences to whom they feel accountable.

Hey mod_perl geeks!

Suppose I have a server with two different perl 5.8 installations in two differen paths (necessary for a variety of legacy reasons) and now have to rebuild an old mod_perl Apache to compile in a module. But whenever I go to rebuild it, it picks the wrong installation of perl to build against, and hence […]

Suppose I have a server with two different perl 5.8 installations in two differen paths (necessary for a variety of legacy reasons) and now have to rebuild an old mod_perl Apache to compile in a module. But whenever I go to rebuild it, it picks the wrong installation of perl to build against, and hence the wrong @INC, and hence nothing works when I try to launch Apache. Anyone know where this can possibly be set? I don’t see any options in Makefile.PL that can say “hey, use this perl installation”, and it seems like this must happen to other people — so what’s the answer?

(no, the original Apache was compiled without mod_so, so I can’t just load the module dynamically. Grr.)

Podium Light Wall

Our friends at Kinecity have posted some new information about the Podium Light Wall they have been working on for the facade of 7 World Trade Center. The Podium Light Wall is located on the South and North facades of 7 World Trade Center. As people wander on the pavement below a strip of blue […]

Our friends at Kinecity have posted some new information about the Podium Light Wall they have been working on for the facade of 7 World Trade Center.

The Podium Light Wall is located on the South and North facades of 7 World Trade Center. As people wander on the pavement below a strip of blue light gracefully follows them. This strip of blue light is 7 floors tall and is visible from Freedom Park. The Podium Wall accentuates the individual, and the patterns that are created as many pass by together. Kinecity designed the interactive element of the design for James Carpenter Design Assoc. who were the responsible for the wall as an art piece.

source: information aesthetics

Hacking The iPod

In my last post about using iPods for gallery tours with Art on Call, I talked about ordering serveral iPod Nano’s that we were going to load up and lend out to the public. I also mentioned how this had its own set of unique problems to overcome. That actually turned out to be a […]

In my last post about using iPods for gallery tours with Art on Call, I talked about ordering serveral iPod Nano’s that we were going to load up and lend out to the public. I also mentioned how this had its own set of unique problems to overcome. That actually turned out to be a bit of an understatement.

Lending iPods out to patrons is much more involved than just the simple question of how you clean them, or avoiding theft (those items of business are handled by our Visitors Services department). In the New Media world, we care more about answering the question, “how do we make them easy to use?”

Ease of use really comes in two forms. One for the user of the device, and the other for those of us having to update the content on the device itself. When there are budgetary constraints, you’re always looking for the best bang for the buck, while not overly hindering the experience because of it. So what do we do?

The default iPod OS is not good enough.

When you’re using an iPod in a normal sense with MP3s as music, the tags for each song make sense, like artist, album, and genre. When you’re dealing with physical objects, the relationship doesn’t always make sense. Sure, Artist makes senes, but Album? What does that mean to someone looking for audio on “Spoonbridge and Cherry” who doesn’t know who the artist is? Where do they look with the default iPod interface? It’s obvious the iPod interface needs some changes to have it make a bit more sense for museum goers.

iPod Notes (aka “Museum Mode”)

Apple put a feature on the iPod called Notes, which is also referred to as “Museum Mode”. These are files you can put on the iPods data section that point to other files or audio. They’re very simplified HTML and allow you to basically customize the interface. You’re also able to default to “notes mode” so that you don’t see the normal iPod OS choices or are you able to fiddle with the iPod’s settings. Sounds like a great solution right? Well, almost.

One of the biggest problems with Notes is that it breaks the second rule of ease of use. Since they’re just flat HTML text files, creating the directory structure you want takes a lot of hand coding. Notes does not really take advantage of the ID3 tags in the MP3 files. While you can link to a list of songs in genre “X”, you can’t link to a list of all genres and go from there (and if you can, it’s not covered in Apple’s API docs). This means having to rewrite a lot of the basic functionality of the normal iPod through notes mode. It’s time consuming, and every update of audio means an update to the Notes files.

Even if this did work nicely there are other issues. One is that special characters don’t seem to render properly, if at all, in Notes mode, even with the correct text encodings set. The other for me was a real deal breaker. Half the reason to restrict users to Notes mode was to keep people out of the normal iPod OS. However, if you hold the Menu button down for 2 seconds (like you would to go from song info to the main menu in one click), it doesn’t go back to the Notes menu, it goes to the iPod menu! Imagine the confusion of someone holding the menu button down just a tad too long and now staring at a screen that looks nothing like they had seen before! Now we’re back to the same old problems we had in the beginning. So what do we do?

Hack the iPod

Before I tried Notes mode, I had thought about just hacking the iPod firmware to change the menu options in the OS. However, I figured “Museum Mode” would be much easier and then went that route. After my dissatisfaction with that, it was back to researching iPod hacks. This would prove to work well, with only a few drawbacks, and also allowed us to add something that we certainly could not do in Notes mode (at least not easily).

First things first, how do you hack an iPod? It’s actually a bit easier than it sounds, though not without a lot of risks. If you’re not confident with machine code, and don’t follow the directions to the letter you can easily turn your iPod into a 6oz paper weight.

That said, there is a great little program called iPod Wizard, that really helps in the process. The basic idea is you download the latest iPod firmware and load it into iPod Wizard. The Wizard helps you find and change various parts of the firmware, like text, fonts, even graphics. Once your changes are made you save the new firmware and then update your iPod with it. If all goes well you’ve just hacked your iPod and it works great!

The results

In our case we mostly just wanted to change the text. Remember how I said earlier how “Album” doesn’t make much sense in a museum audio tour? What if I changed it to “Artwork”? Then we’d have something people could relate to. We’d just have to make sure each artwork title was mapped into the Album ID3 tag in the MP3 and it would be seamless to the user. Do this for other tags, and you get the following, which is our new iPod interface:

Lets start at the top. “Art on Call” is now the name of the iPod. Next are Artist and Artwork, followed by Location which lists each gallery in the museum, and then Code, which is the Art on Call number code on an artwork. As you can see there are a number of ways to drill down to get to the same content, and it all uses the build in ID3 tagging of the MP3s. Just tag them correctly, upload them and they fall into place. Much easier to make sense of and update!

You may have also noticed “Walker Calendar” in the options. This was what I was talking about earlier in regards to extra features that would be hard or impossible to do in Notes mode. iPod allows you to sync with iCal, and we have already made an iCal feed of our online calendar. So why not put it in the iPod? Here’s what it looks like:

Calendar grid is on the left. The red flags represent days when events take place. Click on a day and get the list of events for that day followed by a detail of the event which is shown in the right image. The great thing about this is because it works with iCal, it’s an auto update. When you plug your iPod in it auto syncs with our calendar feed and updates as we recharge. There’s literally no work to do to add this feature on our part.

Lastly you see an “Information” item on the main menu. This is actually Notes mode. We’ll still use notes for things like info about Art on Call, or perhaps various other info we want to push there.

Downfalls

While this does sound nice there is one main downfall. While you can change the text of the items that appear on the OS, you can’t outright remove some of the options. For example, “Settings” always appears on the main menu, meaning anyone could go in and change them if they wanted. However this was also a possibility in Notes mode as well, given the problems I wrote above.

To try to solve this we used a bit of social engineering that will hopefully help at least keep a few people from mucking around in the options. One was to label Settings to “iPod Settings” to alert people that this is perhaps something they want to avoid. If they do happen to click on it though they’re greated with this message:

Most honest people will recognize the mistake at this point and back out. Those who really feel like fiddling of course can, though resetting the defaults is pretty easy and will be done after each iPod is brought back to the counter after use.

Overall this isn’t the greatest solution in the world, but I feel it works a lot better than the default OS menu or the Museum Mode. Time will tell how patrons feel about it, which is the only real thing that matters in the end. Hopefully we’ve covered our bases.

Artists-in-Residence Update

It wasn’t to long ago that we launched the Walker’s new Artists-in-Residence page and it’s already got an update! We received a lot of feedback on the site and made substantial changes to the interface that (hopefully) make the site easier to use. The Li Zhenhua is the latest Artist-in-Residence. He is here as part […]

AIR

It wasn’t to long ago that we launched the Walker’s new Artists-in-Residence page and it’s already got an update! We received a lot of feedback on the site and made substantial changes to the interface that (hopefully) make the site easier to use.

The Li Zhenhua is the latest Artist-in-Residence. He is here as part of OPEN-ENDED for the opening of The Wave a collection of experimental films from China that he curated, and for the installation his online project Virtual China.

Let us know what you think of the Artist-in-Residence site with a comment here, or even better go over to Li Zhenhua’s residency journal and drop him a comment.

GIF show and mashup.

CompuServe’s venerable Graphics Interchange Format looks like it’s back in vogue again. The GIF show was curated by Marisa Olson (of Rhizome) and the Rx Gallery, it opens tomorrow at the Rx Gallery in San Francisco and even has it’s own mySpace page. Participating artists include Cory Arcangel, Peter Baldes, Michael Bell-Smith, Jimpunk, Olia Lialina, […]

CompuServe’s venerable Graphics Interchange Format looks like it’s back in vogue again.

Gif Show

The GIF show was curated by Marisa Olson (of Rhizome) and the Rx Gallery, it opens tomorrow at the Rx Gallery in San Francisco and even has it’s own mySpace page. Participating artists include Cory Arcangel, Peter Baldes, Michael Bell-Smith, Jimpunk, Olia Lialina, Abe Linkoln, Guthrie Lonergan, Lovid, Tom Moody, Paper Rad, Paul Slocum, and Matt Smear.

Update:

I just saw Marisa Olson put links to some of the works in the show on a del.ciou.us page. Like this GIF by Michael Bell-Smith.

Katzzz

In other GIF news the Animated GIF Mashup was launched in early April. This project allows users to find their favorite animated gifs and combine them into a single wild page. It was developed at the Eyebeam OpenLab. There are quite a few mashups saved on Delicious

SonicForms and PercepTable

It looks like these interactive table posts could become a weekly blog feature. Here are two more interactive table projects. SonicForms Opensource interface to create music with tangible objects. To operate the interface users manipulate blocks of wood, the program then generates sounds and visuals based on those positions. The interface utilizes a custom Processing […]

It looks like these interactive table posts could become a weekly blog feature. Here are two more interactive table projects.

SonicForms

Opensource interface to create music with tangible objects. To operate the interface users manipulate blocks of wood, the program then generates sounds and visuals based on those positions. The interface utilizes a custom Processing library which receives Open Sound Control messages from PureData. It looks like there is still a good bit of information to fill in on the site but the O’Shea’s willingness to share the technology behind this project is and exciting sign.

PercepTable

Developed by the Pervasive Technology Labs for the Indianapolis Museum of Art. This table can run a couple software applications including a Restaurant Finder and RiverSide data explorer. The display technology is a projector suspended overhead (seen during installation), users move objects around the table which are recognized by video tracking software. On this page the second screen for data display is clearly visible, this is the first dual screen table I’ve found besides the Dialog Table.