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Mary McCartney: Moment of Affection


Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.


New, Interactive Technologies at Cooper Hewitt

By Charlotte Kinberger

December 17, 2014

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum unveiled the incredible results of its three-year-long renovation last week. The regular suspects are present: increased gallery space, new lighting, even a new typeface, but perhaps the most exciting additions of the project are a plethora of interactive technologies to improve the visitor experience.

Throughout the galleries on three floors, there are seven newly-installed touchscreen tables. Designed in collaboration with Local Projects and developed by Ideum, the 84-inch, 55-inch, and 32-inch surfaces allow you to explore the museum’s collections using the same technology as smart phones and tablets. When you walk up to one, you’re prompted to draw to begin. With something as simple as a straight line, the technology can generate an object from the collection that incorporates that design. I drew a swirl, and an image of a brass sconce came up with its information, history, and related objects organized by categories including year, color, and material. If you’re feeling particularly inspired, you can choose to “design your own” from a group of object types like chair, hat and vase. Draw your creation with simple lines on the left, and the program generates a fully rendered, 3D-like version on the right. If you don’t feel like drawing that’s fine too, you can always just select one of the circular thumbnails floating down the center of the screen on the “object river,” and an enlarged image of your choice will pop up, along with the same information generated by drawing a shape.

Open Gallery

On the first floor, in the Process Lab, another tablet table allows visitors to “design it better.” Here, you can propose new add-ons for everyday products: perhaps a battery operated outlet on your shopping cart for simultaneous shopping and charging? When you’ve perfected your concept, you can share it with others, view those of past visitors, and vote on the best innovations.

Up the burgundy-carpeted stairway, on the second floor is another table in the Immersion Room. Here, you can experience the museum’s collection of 10,000 plus wallcoverings, the largest of its kind in North America. This technology is similar to the other browsing tables, but here, the selected design is projected onto two of the room’s walls, so that you can see the wallpaper to scale. Occasionally, an image of the designer with an audible quote about the design will come up, too. Feeling inspired? You can also create your own motif, and the program will multiply it, and project it onto the walls.

Open Gallery

In early 2015, realizing your ideas will be made easier with the museum’s Pen, which will be provided with your ticket. Not only will the pen be a stylus for the touchscreen tables, it’ll also allow visitors to “collect objects” from the exhibitions. Just touch the tip to any object label with a NFC tag (they look sort of like plus signs), and the object’s information will be saved to your pen, and sent to a link on your ticket. You can also create a museum account so the information from multiple visits can be accessed at the same place.

You can go experience these terrific and engaging technologies yourself no, as the museum re-opened to the public last Friday. Bring your kids, parents and grandparents, the interface is intuitive and delightfully tactile: certain to engage those of all ages.

IdeumLocal ProjectsSmithsonianThe Cooper Hewitt


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