Tag Archives: Phil van Allen

Nailing it: Grad students pioneer wearable tech’s entree into quantified manicures

Handiwork courtesy of the team behind the Sensor Salon

Handiwork courtesy of the team behind the Sensor Salon

Fresh from wowing a tough techie crowd at Microsoft headquarters in Seattle, Media Design Practices grad students Kristina Ortega and Jennifer Rodenhouse give us the lowdown on their novel nail salon concept that turns fingernails into a dynamic digital platform. The duo first hatched the idea for a “Sensor Salon” in a Wearable Ecologies class sponsored by Intel and led by MDP faculty members Philip van Allen and Ben Hooker. Now it’s taken flight, attracting interest in the field as well as a flurry of media attention, from public radio to Fast Company and Geekwire among other outlets. Their Wearable Services—proffering technologies embedded in nail gels, from LCD screens and 3D printed objects to GPS and haptic feedback devices—may well be fashioning the future.

The Dotted Line: What was your main inspiration for this unusual type of wearable device?

Kristina Ortega: We were really inspired by nail art culture and nail art salons in Los Angeles. During our initial research into the current state of wearable tech we noticed that many devices were one size fits all. This seemed in such stark contrast to this process of self-maintenance we saw with nail art and salon culture, which is all about the process of personalization.

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Fashion forward meets emotional rescue: Art Center students imagine the future of wearables

Sangli Li's Expressive Wearable.

Sangli Li’s Expressive Wearables shields its user from intrusive sights and sounds.

With Apple and Google both adding fashion professionals to its regiments, it appears that the next consumer electronics war will be waged not over the smartphone in your pocket, but over the devices worn around your wrists and over your eyes.

Always ahead of the curve, Art Center students, instructors and alumni are currently imagining where wearables might head next. And while wearables will undoubtedly translate to big business, how might this technology change our behavior as human beings?

This question, and many more, were explored in a recent Intel Corporation-sponsored Wearables Ecologies course taught by Media Design Practices (MDP) Professor Phil van Allen and Associate Professor Ben Hooker.

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Asking ‘Imagine If?’: Interaction Design at Art Center

Alumnus Ian Sands PROD 95 in Microsoft's prototyping lab, testing a TouchWall.

This Fall term, Art Center took another step in its evolution and launched an Interaction Design (IxD) degree program headed up by user experience pioneer Maggie Hendrie.

Now, wait a minute, you might be thinking, hasn’t the College been teaching interaction design for years? After all, Art Center has alumni working at Google, Microsoft, Samsung and virtually every company exploring the boundaries of interactivity.

The answer to that, of course, is yes, Art Center has indeed been preparing its graduates to enter the field of interaction design for the better part of two decades.

“Art Center has a long history of maintaining the dynamic between the development of a craft and the application of it, and interaction design is an applied craft,” Hendrie recently told The Dotted Line. “Also, Art Center is already outstanding in the very fields in which interaction is applied: environments, interfaces, products, automotives, social projects and systems.”

Take for example alumnus Ian Sands, the co-founder of vision and strategy firm Intentional Futures, who graduated from the College in 1995 with a degree in Product Design.

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Designing Experiences, Systems and Solutions: Art Center’s New Interaction Design Program

Nikolai Cornell MDP 04 with his Infiniti Interactive Mirrors. Faculty member Phil van Allen consulted on this project.

With recent forecasts predicting that Apple will sell as many as 66 million units of their latest iteration of the iPad this year, its safe to say that what the Cupertino company dubbed as the “post-PC era” is quickly becoming a reality. But the shift from personal computers to tablets is just one aspect of a digital interactive future still being written.

This coming Fall Term, as part of the College’s Create Change initiative, Art Center will launch a new undergraduate Interaction Design degree program, in which students—whether designing a mobile app or a gestural interface for an exhibition—will learn to think deeply about the user’s experience, apply technology creatively and invent new approaches to interaction and design.

We recently sat down with Interaction Design founding faculty members Brian Boyl (Graphic Design, Integrated Studies, Product Design), Philip van Allen (Graduate Media Design) and Jeffrey Higashi (Product Design), who have been busy establishing the framework for the Department’s curriculum in anticipation of the arrival of the new department’s chair. An international search is now underway and an announcement is expected in June.

Dotted Line: Can you describe the academic interaction design landscape and how Art Center’s new program will stand out?

Art Center faculty Brian Boyl. Photo: Steven A. Heller/Art Center College of Design.

Brian Boyl: There are several graduate programs in interaction design in the United States—Illinois Institute of Technology, New York Univeristy and Carnegie Mellon to name a few—but there aren’t a lot of accredited undergraduate programs. We’d be one of the first undergraduate programs to be launched and absolutely the first to be launched in Southern California. That’s exciting. What we’re doing is looking at the core strengths of Art Center. We think the best move in creating this program is to make sure it strongly integrates with our other departments and channels their strengths.

Phil van Allen: Interaction design is by its very nature collaborative, so the idea is to build a strong program that stands on its own but that also has a kind of permeability. For example, we’ve discussed that students in Interaction Design will take Graphic Design and Product Design courses, because those two disciplines are very central to interaction design. Our students will need to have an exceptional foundation of disciplines to be exceptional interaction designers. And then there’s the core of interaction design itself, which they will have to become experts in.

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MDP Students Create Installation for A+D Museum

The following post, written by faculty member Phil van Allen, is reprinted from his blog.

View Slideshow

Recently a few of my students from the Media Design Program at Art Center and I created an interactive video installation for the 10th anniversary of the Architecture+Design Museum.

The A+D is a growing institution in the Los Angeles area, and they were having a party for their board and major donors. Two weeks before the event I got a call from museum supporter Garson Yu owner of yU+co, asking to help out in a volunteer effort to create something to show the history of the museum. By the time I got some students to sign up, and an approach approved, we had just one week to make the entire project.

The project consists of six plywood panels mounted to the wall, with separate slideshows running on each panel. Because the panels are different distances from the wall, there’s a dimensional effect created.

The idea was to break the normal flat rectangle of projection and create an installation that felt more like a physical part of the space. In addition to the randomly playing slideshows on each panel, we created a simple interactive feature so if someone walked up to the wall, a flourish of motion graphics would appear unifying all the panels, then fading into a photo of the front of the museum spread across several panels.

The project was a collaborative design and build between myself and three students: Brooklyn BrownManny Darden and Rubina Ramchandani. The design approach was partially inspired by some of Manny’s thesis work.

For software, we used my NETLab Toolkit with a new SlideShow widget I developed that runs each of the slideshows - the entire project has no ActionScript, using only the toolkit widgets. Images were placed in folders, and each SlideShow widget played a set of images from these folders in a random order. Two projectors were used to get a wider display (2500 pixels), and these were fed by a video splitter out of a MacBook Pro (this way the Flash movie played across both projectors). An Infrared proximity sensor was used to detect someone in front of the wall, and this started the playback of five different video streams across the different panels.

View videos of the project on van Allen’s site.

Philip van Allen Podcast on the New Ecology of Things

The design mind On Air blog has a new podcast of an interview with Art Center’s Phil van Allen, Graduate Media Design professor and director of the New Ecology of Things Lab.

Chris Sallquist writes: “Van Allen suggests that innovation not only means meeting customer needs by cultivating ideas, but he translates the activity of innovating to actually inventing things and new medias. Van Allen also stresses that holding an actual tangible object inspires and enables designers to ‘re-think the whole communication process.’”

Check it out: The New Ecology of Things