Julia Yu Tsao
Graduate Thesis Project, Fall 2009
Media Design Program, Art Center College of Design
Curious Displays functions simultaneously as a form of design research and as a proposal for a new product, a future display technology.
The project explores our relationship with devices and technology by examining the multi-dimensionality of communication and the complexity of social behavior and interaction. In its essence, the project functions as a piece of design fiction, considering the fluctuating nature of our present engagement with media technology and providing futurist imaginings of other ways of being.
Curious Displays is a product proposal for a new platform for display technology. Instead of a fixed form factor screen, the display surface is instead broken up into hundreds of ½ inch display blocks. Each block operates independently as a self-contained unit, and has full mobility, allowing movement across any physical surface. The blocks operate independently of one another, but are aware of the position and role relative to the rest of the system. With this awareness, the blocks are able to coordinate with the other blocks to reconfigure their positioning to form larger display surfaces and forms depending on purpose and function. In this way, the blocks become a physical embodiment of digital media, and act as a vehicle for the physical manifestation of what typically exists only in the virtual space of the screen.
Traditionally, displays are fixed-size/ratio surfaces that provide an entry point to a defined experience with digital media content. This content is varied--informational, filmic, auditory, at times even spatial. However, the relationship between the user and the digital entities within the defined surface of the screen creates a sense of fragmentation between two distinct spaces. The virtual space of the screen provides a surface for media content to come alive, but is a distinct and marked separation from the physical space that the user occupies.
Projection begins to create a kind of a hybrid space for the physical and virtual to blend. Projection can appear anywhere. It can appear on any surface at any given time, and can disappear again just as quickly, providing many space-saving benefits and new opportunities for mixed reality interaction and augmentation. However, the nature of such a transitory medium defies basic rules that are core to our understanding of the physical world. This begs the question of how virtual objects and entities can manifest themselves in the physical world without the "here one minute, gone the next" nature of the projection medium.
Curious Display "blocks" are tangible and tactile. They occupy and move through physical space, and are thus subject to the same spatial rules and limitations faced by any other physical objects. These constraints lend themselves to potentially interesting outcomes in terms of interactivity and negotiation. An abundance of questions quickly begin to surface--how do they move? How do they behave? Does this movement and behavior begin to allude to the development of a type of personality? How does one communicate with them? Where do they go when you're not using them? What role do they take on in our daily lives?
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