University of Tsukuba – “labX” 2015

The title sums up Ars Electronica Futurelab Academy’s intensive collaboration with Japan’s University of Tsukuba – a leading research university with a visionary focus in human-centred cybernetics. There, a new PhD programme in Empowerment Informatics (EMP) has been founded, with Device Art pioneer Hiroo Iwata as programme leader and highly talented researchers from all over the world as students.

EMP’s mission is research in the areas of supplementing, harmonizing and extending the human faculties and abilites. Its practice is by necessity experimental, and artistic research might play a role in it. This practical, experimental aspect is framed in the “Empowerment Studio”, a space for projects to be developed and exhibited, and for the first students of this new programme, this has already been complemented with “labX” – an extension of this studio by a collaboration with the Futurelab Academy.

 

“LabX” collaboration presentation
“LabX” collaboration presentation

 

Workshops & Mentoring

Photos: Chihiro Masuda, EMP, University of Tsukuba.

In this first “labX” edition in Summer 2015, four PhD students developed projects that were exhibited at the Ars Electronica Festival in September 2015. They were connected with mentors from the Futurelab, who, with their expertise in public-facing media art, gave them feedback, conducted workshops and helped them develop their ideas into prototypes that can be shown to the public.

 

 

Exhibition of the projects at the Ars Electronica Festival

Photos: Peter Holzkorn, Ars Electronica Futurelab / Martin Hieslmair, Ars Electronica

During the festival, the two projects “IrukaTact” and “idMirror” were exhibited as part of the Post City Kit exhibition. IrukaTact (Aisen Caro Chacin / US, Takesho Oozu / JP) is a submersible haptic search glove inspired by dolphin (“iruka” in Japanese) echolocation that assists the location of sunken objects after a flood, translating ultrasonic range finding data to physical feedback using a novel approach: The system detects the topography of the flooded ground and sends haptic signals to the wearer’s fingertips. These signals are produced by multiple micropumps which propel waterjets onto each digit.Conceived as a kit for emergency situations, IrukaTact is open-source and can be constructed using readily available materials and digital fabrication processes.

 

IrukaTact additional materials: video, leaflets, process sketches
IrukaTact additional materials: video, leaflets, process sketches

 

idMirror, distorting and combining the visitors’ faces
idMirror, distorting and combining the visitors’ faces

 

idMirror (Maša Jazbec / SI, Floris Erich / NL) is an artistic project that investigates how social networks and emerging mobile technologies have forever changed the perception of human identity.

The piece uses tablet computers’ inherent resemblance of mirrors to play with this identity by turning the visitors’ faces into the objects of unexpected manipulation. It aims to redefine the human position in the contemporary world when all kinds of environments – including those of everyday life – are particularly information-oriented in a society.