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Glassworks: testing people at Sónar+D

01/02/2016

Glassworks is currently one of the most striking interactive creation studios in Europe. Specialised in 3D graphics, Glassworks has offices in London, Amsterdam and since 2011 in Barcelona. Their sophisticated experiences have been present at MarketLab ever since Sónar+D was born in 2013. ‘We think of challenges that can be performed there and that we can make the most of them as for the technology used How the installation is planned, and the feedback and the behaviour of the audience. Other than testing technologies, Sónar+D allows us to observe the people, their reactions, their feelings, their natural circuit inside the installation beyond what we could anticipate or plan. We take a lot of notes that we will use later on from an advertising perspective‘, says engineer Xavi Tribó.

With curiosity and passion for coding, Xavi Tribó began to create interactive pieces for a series of parties called ‘Artworks’ that the Barcelona based studio throws to establish a connection with clients and friends. ‘We wanted to offer to the public something entertaining and surprising, more than just a cocktail bar and a DJ. We were realising that the profile of our clients was changing. We have gone from being requested by production companies to being called by agencies that need resources to tell their stories in a different way’.

Thus, driven by experimentation at one of those parties, Xavi created a piece called ‘Fan Box’ – a crystal vase filled with small styrofoam balls that, elevated by a series of fans, formed a fluid movement similar to a wave or an equaliser. The success of that installation encouraged him to continue creating.

‘I’m an engineer. I had never developed anything artistic. But I love coding and realising I could use programming to make artistic things opened a world to me that I could never imagine. It blew my mind away’, says Xavi Tribó.

Glassworks was present at Sónar+D for the first time in 2013 and they premiered ‘Cube Pix‘, an interactive installation that uses real-time mapping that generates extraordinary results using technology seemingly simple: cardboard cubes, a projector, Kinect, Arduino boards and 64 servomotors. Users may interact with the movement and the lightning of the boxes.

In 2014 Glassworks returned with ‘Pan Me‘, an installation that allowed to play music collectively by using the facial movements. With 4 iPads and a facial expression scanning software, users could activate some Ableton Live settings and interact among them. This project premiered at Sónar+D had several spinoffs like ‘Pay per Laugh’, an initiative of the Teatreneu theatre – iPads with the facial scanning app installed were placed in front of each seat of the venue, capturing the smiles of the audience, and then spectators only paid for the number of times they laughed. This project has won more than 40 international awards in the categories of interactivity and mobile applications.

Ghost in the Machine‘ is the name of their collaboration with CANADA production company exhibited at Sónar+D 2015. The challenge was mixing storytelling with industrial robots programming and other techniques. Then, they were able to put into practice almost immediately all the research and development work done with ‘Ghost in the Machine’. ‘We were requested for an advertising shooting for a company that happened to use the same robots in its industrial process. That allowed us to develop a motion control that we put into practice for that commercial’.

Each technical development has the purpose of starting a dialogue with the user. In the case of ‘Ghost in the Machine’, the machine that photographs the soul, they were inspired by psychological philosophy texts by Arthur Koestler (‘Darkness at Noon’, ‘The Roots of Coincidence’). The project is a futurist examination of the ego that explores elegantly the human nature from the point of view of the machines.

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