Wednesday, July 31, 2013

COMPETITION: Most awesome interactive water installation = free Microsoft Surface.

The User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) 2013 conference just posed this year's student competition. UIST is one of the best conferences to see new research in interface technology and sensing technology applied to real-time systems. It is also a great opportunity to meet amazing people working in industry and academia in a very small venue.

The student competition is meant to be a fun way to engage students, and give them an opportunity to flex their creative muscles and get a few moments in the spot light, since the submissions and awards are seen by most of the attendees.

This year is using computer controlled water as an interactive interface and sponsored by Microsoft Research. If you are selected to participate, you will get a free PumpSpark Kit that includes everything you need to make an interactive water widget. If you are one of the selected winners, you will receive a Microsoft Surface. Check out the video below, and see if you want to try your hand at the competition. Official contest page here.

It's always great to take a little time to step away from thinking about traditional computers, and mobiles phones and imagine how unusual materials could become a highly interactive input and output medium. The only reason computers look and feel they way they do, is because someone else made them that way. There's no inherent reason why they HAVE to stay the way they are today.

One of my favorite works in this genre is a project called Sandscape done in 2002 by Hiroshi Ishii's Tangible Media group at MIT Media Lab. Using an expensive laser scanner and projector, people could interact with the sand to create digital landscapes that react in real-time via computer simulation. A tremendous amount of technology completely disappears. The user merely plays directly with the sand. (Today, this can be replicated quite cheaply with a Kinect)

SandScape 2002 from Tangible Media Group on Vimeo.