Guest Lecture 2: NextEmpire

Guest Lecture 2: NextEmpire

Jun 12, 2020
💡Guest Lecture

1.1 About the talk


1.2 Key Takeaways

In a nutshell: Snippets of thoughts I took from the talk itself
  • Small team, really tailored solutions
  • Teams mostly set up per project consisting of freelancers
  • Hiring freelancers enables the team to be more tailored and motivated

2.1 My personal highlight project:

Select which of the presented projects you find most interesting in a technological sense
ARtis - story unwraps for you.
- Bit experimental for the public
- 3D microphone, speed
  • Educational focus with conceptual tricks
  • Experiencing animals in the dark
  • Cannot use flashlight, instead different screen colours per user
Due to the educational aspect, low screen inteaction and strong focus on the phone's core function (giving light), I decided to learn more about the Slaapwandeling "exhibition"

2.2 Further research & related projects

Look up more information about the project and its creator. (And possibly related projects
The creator of the app was NextEmpire commisioned by the ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo.
The Slaapwandeling app was developed in scope of the partnership with ARTIS and the Amsterdam Light Festival 2019 where light-related art installation take over the city of Amsterdam for almost two months.

Ingress: Geolocation based AR mobile game

Back in 2013, the app cosmos still consisted of a managable amout of apps. One of my favourite, yet battery-draining apps during that time was Ingress. As a forerunner of Pokemon Go (where the hype somehow spared me), Ingress focussed more on highlighting and "interacting with places of cultural significance". The fact there was thus was a somehow educational aspect embedded in this global game, really got me excited over and over again, where ever I was.
Something subltle I realize now is the overall background color scheme of the app: Using black, especially when used on phones with AMOLED screen, had something truly mystical. At the same time, this choice of color scheme somehow influenced the way of behaviour I used to have with this app in particular: I usually used it during the evening / night.
notion image

Nightwalk in Marseille

Another way of reaching a high level of location-aware immersion is making the entire experience digital.
In collaboration of 72and Sunny Amsterdam and Google Creative Lab, the project "Night Walk in Marseille" enabled the vibrant alleys of Marseille to become alive where ever you might be.
By using "Binaural sound technology" with the sound adapting to movements, the creators achieved a high level of immersion.
In addition to that, yet again, this experience in the dark was accompanied by useful side information, such as historical throwbacks when approaching landmarks, providing side facts in a Google Knowledge Graph pane or YouTube videos introducing the local graffiti scene.
notion image

2.3 The overall objective of ARTIS Slaapwandeling

Explain the intended goal of the installation
Disruption can come in different tastes - but in most of the cases it is "shocking" to the people in the first place, while it might carry positive effects in the long run. In the ARTIS Zoo, disruption was created in the vistors' heads by exposing them to a pitch black environment full of animals. The main objective here was it to build up the feeling of disruption, while with the help of light and art assist the visitor in overcoming their initial fears.
In the last days, I also stumbled over a podcast dealing with a research study on how the creative artwork found in dark caves can deliver evidence for what had been possible in the darkness thousands of years ago already and how our creativity nowadays can still profit from darkness.

2.4 What ARTIS Slaapwandeling does

Explain what the installation is and does.
By using the app, visitors experience how nature adapts to darkness and what we humans might be able to learn from that.
Furthermore it allows to see animals such as dormant flamingos, "glowing" mushroooms and bats. The goal is to sharpen all the senses and while the environment might carry an uncomfortably gloomy appearance, focus and empathize on what is there: The animals and their nocturnal behaviour.

2.5 How ARTIS Slaapwandeling works

Explain how it works, which technology, sensors, actuators are used?
Technology - wise, the installation was solely relying on the visitors' phone and location data for better orientation on the map. However it made use of some smart adjustments that were included to create a novice experience. Such thing can be seen in the adaptive color scheme which is randomly generated per user. The idea behind that was it to let visitors glow in different colors while walking through the park.
According to the app reviews however, this apparently worked "too well" as a user in the Play Store describes :
"unfortunately the screen was way too bright in the app and blinded me; despite setting the brightness of the phone to the lowest, the app seemed to ignore this."
Although on the ARTIS website they highlight that the animals are not disturbed by the light, this indeed is a side aspect to take into account when developing such an app. You should not blind your users, nor the animals.

2.6 Why ARTIS Slaapwandeling is interesting in the field of HCI

Explain why this project is interesting in the light of the field of HCI.
While VR or AR approaches would probably not work in this setting, both due to the dark light setting and the fact, visitors are already exposed to an immersive environment with audiovisual components, I think this low-screen interaction approach was really an interesting choice to go for. It is not just an app - it enables the visitor to fully immerse with the actual environment, while the phone itself acts as "key" to the experience showing either an individually colored torch for orientation, provides educational input and otherwise leaves the user fully immersed with the physical space.
Overall very interesting to see, that it's not always necessary to stuff the entire place with BLE beacons, sensors, speakers and lights, when people already carry everyhing in their pocket.

2.7 Conclusion: Why ARTIS Slaapwandeling is meaningful to me

Explain why you find this project interesting
Although I am personally always trying to avoid apps as central concepts and prefer low to non-screen interaction, this implementation really got me inspired - being minimalistic, having a different appearance to every user and assisting their night walk through the zoo by providing educational content in a subtle way. Especially the theme of the given content covers a field, the average zoo visitor most likely does not know a lot about: The sleep behaviour of animals.