Media art, VIS Excursion to ZKM in Karlsruhe

This afternoon we (over 40 people from VIS and VISUS at the University of Stuttgart) went to Karlsruhe to visit the ZKM. We got guided tours to the panorama laboratory, the historic video laboratory, to the SoundARt exhibition and some parts of the regular exhibition. Additionally Prof. Gunzenhäuser gave a short introduction to the Zuse Z22 that is in on show there, too.

 The ZKM is a leading center for digital and media art that includes a museum for media art and modern art, several research institutes, and an art and design school. The approach is to bring media artists, works of art, research in media art and teaching in this field close together (within a single large building). The exhibitions include major media art works from the last 40 years.

The panorama laboratory is a 360 degree (minus a door) projection. Even though the resolution of the powerwall at VISUS [1] is higher and the presentation is in 3D, the360 degree 10 Megapixel panorama screen results in an exciting immersion. Without 3D, being surrounded by media creates a feeling of being in the middle of something that happens around you. Vivien described the sensation of movement similar to sitting in a train. The moment another train pulls out of the station you have a hard time to tell who is moving. I think such immersive environment could become very common once we will have digital display wallpaper.

The historic video laboratory is concerned with “rescuing” old artistic video material. We sometimes complain about the variety of video codecs, but looking at the many different formats for tapes and cassettes, this problem has a long tradition. Looking at historic split screen videos that were created using analog technologies one appreciates the virtues of digital video editing… Two are two amazing films by Zbigniew Rybczyński: Nowa Książka (New Book): and and Tango:

The current SoundArt exhibition is worthwhile. There are several indoor and outdoor installations on sounds. In the yard there is a monument built of speakers (in analogy to the oracle of Delphi) that you can call from anywhere (+49 721 81001818) and get 3 minutes of time to talk to whom even is in the vicinity of the installation. Another exhibit sonfied electron magnetic fields from different environments in an installation called the cloud.

[1] Powerwall at VISUS at the Univeristy of Stuttgart (6m by 2.20, 88 million pixel in, 44 million pixel per eye for 3D).

DFG Emmy Noether Meeting in Potsdam, Art, Ceilings

Meeting with other researchers that run or have run Emmy Noether research groups is very different from normal conferences and meetings. The participants are across all disciplines – from art history to zoology 😉 The meeting focuses mainly on strategic, political, personal, administrative and organizational issues when starting a research career. This year we had child care organized during the meeting and Vivien came with me to Potsdam.

On Saturday night I learned that we (our galaxy) will eventually collide with the Andromeda Galaxy (but after our sun is out fuel – so I do not worry too much). Vivien found this fascinating, too. Learning more about astrophysics (looks defiantly more complicated than the things I usually do) teaches me to worry less about the immediate usefulness and direct utility of research results – also in our domain.

I am fascinated how different research can be and at the same time how similar the enthusiasm is people have for their research. By now – being one of the old guys – I co-organized two workshops. One together with Dr. Hellfeier from DHV on how to negotiate for a professorship and one with Stefanie Scheu and Rainer Hirsch-Luipold on teaching and PhD-supervision.

I talked to Riko Jacob (CS at TU Munich) about teaching computer science in school and he showed me a picture of a tangible shortest path calculator (I took a photo of the photo ;-). Perhaps I have at some point time to play with the installation in Munich.

On Sunday morning we took the water taxi – direct from the hotel peer – to the central train station in Potsdam. Christian Scholl from Göttingen (he does Art History) took some time to show us around the castle Sans Souci. After our discussion I wondered if we should consider a joint seminar from computer science/media informatics and art history – in particular ideas related to ambient media, interactive facades, and robotic buildings would benefit from a more historic awareness. There is an interesting PhD thesis on ceiling displays [1] – for a shorter version see [2]. I met Martin Tomitsch at a Ubicomp DC and I was impressed with the idea and its grounding in history.

[1] Tomitsch M. (2008). Interactive Ceiling – Ambient Information Display for Architectural Environments. PhD Thesis, Vienna University of Technology, Austria.

[2] Tomitsch, M., Grechenig, T., Vande Moere, A. & Sheldon, R. (2008). Information Sky: Exploring Ceiling-based Data Representations. International Conference on Information Visualisation (IV08), London, UK, 100-105.

Cologne – New Pixel Window

On Saturday on our way back home we made a stop in Cologne. After mounting the tower (509 steps) we had a look at the new window which lead to some discussion over the recent weeks.

It looks like pixels and is abstract in comparison to the other windows (which have traditional picture motives). To me it seems a neat idea that somehow reflects our time.

Visit at Fraunhofer IAIS in Bremen, eCultury Factory

After talking sometime ago to Monika Fleischmann I was curious about the eCultury Factory in Bremen, which is a part of Fraunhofer IAIS. Today I had the chance to visit them and see several installations, including a news browser for the public space (ENERGIE_PASSAGEN). It is a pity that I missed to see the large scale installation in Munich.

We discussed the current developments of the point screen and realized that there is an interesting link to a thesis that was done last year at my group in Munich. Raphael Wimmer looked systematically at options for capacitive sensing and created a toolkit for capacitive sensing (

Monika Fleischmann, Wolfgang Strauss and their team run the digital sparks competition. The collection of projects is amazing. One can really envy Monika and Wolfgang – by running the competition they have a complete overview of the digital media scene. They also run a web page with a lot of interesting information on media art and electronic culture:

When looking at the projects we saw that the CabBoots by Martin Frey had featured in the digital sparks competitions and at the TEI-07 conference I chaired with Brygg Ullmer in February this year. The Paper is available in the ACM DL: Frey, M. 2007. CabBoots: shoes with integrated guidance system. In Proceedings of the 1st international Conference on Tangible and Embedded interaction (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, February 15 – 17, 2007). TEI ’07, pp 245-246. DOI= (Foto by Matthias Kranz)

acatech workshop: object in context

It was interesting to see that smart objects / smart object services, context, NFC, and RFID become very mainstream. It seems that nearly everyone buys into these ideas now.

Dr. Mohsen Darianian (from Nokia Research, same building as Paul Holleis is at the moment) showed an NFC-advert video which reminded me on the results of an exercise we did on concept videos within an HCI-class at the University of Munich 🙂

Overall it seems that acceptance and business models are of great interest and that to create them a lot of technical insight is required. The issues related to user interfaces, interaction, experience become central factors for the success of products and services.

One discussion was on the motivation for people to contribute (e.g. user generated content, write open source code, answer questions in forums, blogs). Understanding this seem crucial to the prediction whether or not a application is going to fly or not.

Besides contributing for a certain currency (e.g. fame, status, money, access to information) it seems that altruism may be an interesting factor for motivating potential users. Even if it is a low percentage within our species the absolute number on a world wide scale could be still enough to drive a certain application/service. There is interesting research on altruism in the animal world (or at the researchers page ) maybe we should look more into this and re-think some basic assumptions on business models?

Our break out group was in the rooms of the Institute of Electronic Business e.V ( It is a very pleasant environment and their link to the art school reflects very positive on the atmosphere and projects. The hand drawn semacodes were really impressive.

Visit at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne

Today I was invited at the Citizen Media seminar to discuss mobile and ubiquitous computing topics with people working in the project. Fraunhofer IAIS and the Academy of Media Arts Cologne are both partners in the European Citizen Media project ( It is a difficult question how to create and support a mobile community. The provision of software and infrastructure is obviously required – e.g. Alexander De Luca and Michael Müller (students I supervised in Munich) designed and implemented an open source software as a basis for mobile blogging (mobile reporter) – but the process that forms and evolves specific community is still little understood.

It was great to meet Georg Trogemann, who is professor for audiovisuell art and computer science at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. Only after I had left I realised that he is the author of a quite interesting book a recently got (Code@Art; ISBN 3-211-20438-5).

We had an interesting discussion on how to most effectively involve users in the design process of novel products. In particular when we expect that technology drives innovation and when future user needs are to be anticipated. I reported from our very positive experience with technology probes (article at IEEE Percom). To me it is central to involve users from the very beginning and throughout all stages of a project and at the same time allow technology to drive innovation beyond current users’ needs.

We had much too little time to see all the interesting projects that are going on there so we have to go back there 😉 the lab and setup in Cologne reminded me of Bill Gaver‘s group at RCA (when we worked together in Equator some year ago).