Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Interface Surge

maria mortati Recently, Mattel released a toy that had an interface which 'rivaled museum experiences'. Shortly after, Paul Orselli cited a blog posting about the new Google Earth for the Wii Fit. Basically, you can now surf the earth physically and virtually. It got me thinking about how museums have long spent thousands of dollars developing interactions such as these for visitors. Now for-profit entities such as Google and Mattel are developing products that raise the bar in what's expected from human-to-computer interactions. Not to mention that the distinction between human and computer is blurring amongst the general public in many parts of the world. Sometimes, museums and the non-profit world don't have the funding to push the envelope (perhaps... now?). At other times, they surge ahead of what the corporate world is doing. That said, an old, clunky, interface is not always a deterrent to an exhibit experience. It can, and does work, as in some instances at the Exploratorium, where the environment of experimentation and historic space is particularly forgiving. It's a bit of a blessing I think, that in this fiscal climate that the corporate world has provided the museum world with a distribution system of ready-made (and very expensive to develop) interfaces that museums can take advantage of. Luckily for us, institutions such as Ars Electronica, and individuals like Jeff Hahn will continue to push the outer edges of the envelope. I hope that there is an economy that will continue to provide the distribution of their breakthroughs.

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