Contemporary craft makers to explore the Internet of Things

Press note - A Music Memory Box for people with dementia, a flying lampshade that communicates feeling, and coins that trigger invaluable experiences: these are all part of Watershed’s new Craft + Technology Residencies January - March 2013.

Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and supported by the Crafts Council, the Craft + Technology Residencies bring together makers Heidi Hinder, Chloe Meineck and Patrick Laing, with technologists at Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol, i-DAT in Plymouth and Autonomatic in Falmouth, to explore how new technologies embedded in objects (the Internet of Things), can enable remarkable interactions.

Imagine a music box that invites dementia sufferers to hold familiar objects, which activate songs, and magically stir inaccessible memories. Chloe Meineck’s Music Memory Box does just that, but what if it could do even more? Setting out to develop this extraordinary project, Chloe will investigate the potential of communal experiences for care homes, which could even break out of the box to pervade the everyday.

At first Patrick Laing’s Flying Skirt Light Shade hangs in a limp felt form from the ceiling, until is switched on, where upon it begins to rotate and the skirt opens out, silently spinning like a dancer’s. Whilst spinning its shape can be manipulated by touch, just like a thrown clay pot on a wheel, but does it have potential to become a playful public experience? Could smart, networked Skirts in transient spaces like airports or hotels, enable new forms of interaction?

Alongside sex and war, money is a constant in human history. But the object of money is fast becoming immaterial. Coins, cash and credit cards are arguably obsolete as digital representations of currency replace the physical objects. Yet trading relies on trust. So how do we trust what we cannot tangibly experience, what we can no longer touch, see, smell or hear? Beyond the financial, Heidi Hinder will playfully question ideas of value and re-imagine the designed object of money, exploring what could happen if beautifully crafted ‘coins’ could trigger truly invaluable and enriching points of exchange.

Clare Reddington, Director of Pervasive Media Studio at Watershed, says “ Watershed’s Craft + Technology Residencies enable contemporary makers to rethink the potential of the Internet of Things, create remarkable new products and new business opportunities. We’re delighted to support Heidi, Chloe and Patrick, and look forward to experiencing the work they develop.”

Beatrice Mayfield, Maker Development Manager at the Crafts Council, says “The Craft + Technology Residencies provide an opportunity for makers to collaborate with other industries. We look forward to how the makers and technologists will bring their unique skills to the production of a physical prototype and the impact this can have on each others’ practices for maximum effect.”

Networked technologies embedded in real things are beginning to make new kinds of service and experience possible. The UK Government is currently investing heavily in this area of work, often referred to as the Internet of Things - supporting technology driven research that investigates how ‘physical things’ such as buildings, vehicles, objects and clothing with built in sensors and computer networks can communicate with users and with each other. However little opportunity has been given to makers to influence and invent the objects and interactions that will animate this arena. This development programme embeds UK makers at the forefront of this research, supporting the creation of radical new products, and the injection of new thinking into science and technology industries.

Craft + Technology Residencies will last for three months January - March 2013. Makers will receive research, development and production support for their projects. Residencies will culminate in a showcase event at Watershed on 28 March 2013.

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