TED2010

A tour of TEDActive's Innovation Lounge, where machines and humans make art together

At TEDActive, The Innovation Lounge by Bing is a flickering future-gallery from a time when desks and desktop computers have been forgotten, and machines are considered art collaborators rather than just tools. We talked with the space’s curators and each of the artists.

Tell me about how you selected the exhibits for the Bing Innovation Lounge.

Aya Zook: Being that this space all about finding the next generation of thinkers, we thought Bing as a newcomer would be perfect for it. We wanted it to be very interactive. We wanted people to actually touch the pieces, and really create something. We looked for artists who were not as big or established. We also looked for artists with a strong visual aspect. … We wanted to focus on a visually rich experience in the physical world.

When I look at what you’re trying to do with search, and these pieces here, it seems like a theme is that the process of creativity is being shared with algorithms — in a way, the creative act is being partially outsourced.

Stefan Weitz: We’re not outsourcing creativity; we’re outsourcing mundane tasks. There’s a lot of things computers are good at. Computers are good at tackling massive amounts of data, identifying patterns, distilling them down to relevant pieces of information. … What we’re doing is augmenting human processing capability, not displacing it.

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“I work for the Jet Propulsion Lab at NASA. Our scientists are looking at how to find planets around other stars. … The difficult part is that stars are big and bright and planets are small and dim. So we have to come up with a way of blocking a really bright light to see a dim light. That’s what this installation is doing. We have a bright projection, and it’s so bright you can’t see the other projection. But when you walk in front of the projection, you can see the other movie inside of your shadow. It’s called The Hidden Light.” — Dan Goods

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“Our ideas is to gradually, more and more, make artwork that responds to people. … In the little birdhouse, there’s a camera. We’re looking for ways to hide the technology from you, so it gives a more magical feeling. It’s built like an old puppet-house, where you really do feel like the puppets are coming alive. Part of your mind knows it’s an illusion, but another part you’re really emotionally participating.” — Nova Jiang

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“It’s called Audio Pad. It’s a new type of DJ mixer. Some of the physical objects on the surface represent different audio tracks. Others represent microphones, selectors, which change the properties of the other objects on the table … We have a spatial mixing metaphor. This is one application developed on hardware called the Sense Table, which tracks the position of objects. It’s a tile-able antenna, so it can be built into a table of any size.” — James Patten

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“This is the first prototype. It’s similar to a multitouch table, the difference being that it’s a lot more tactile. … It lends itself to multi-user participation. The way it’s orientated, people immediately want to touch it. We try to break away from the screen and into the real world, to do something that’s a bit more natural.” — Evan Grant

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“We’ve taken all the topics that have come up in all the TEDTalks from the past few years on the website, and by moving your hand above this box you’ll be able to look see the ideas that people are writing about TED as they’re happening from the Twitter feed. You can control the movement and capture ideas in the aerogel as they’re coming back.” — Gilad Lotan

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“This is a piece by the video and new-media artist Lincoln Schatz. It’s a generative portrait. We created this especially for the space here. It started Monday; we plugged it in, and that’s its ‘born-on date.’ That’s when it started collecting memories. … The software makes all the decisions about what it wants to keep and what it wants to discard. It’s a portrait, but the artist surrenders control to the software.” — Nell Taylor

(Photos: TED / Michael Brands)