Give Me More: Augmented Reality from EPFL+ECAL Lab
730 Montgomery Street, San Francisco
Artistic animations float across the pages of a timeless book about the Swiss countryside. Banknotes prove strangely seductive. Your head is suddenly engulfed in clouds and your clothes ooze bubbles. This is the world of Give Me More, an Augmented Reality (AR) exhibit by Switzerland’s EPFL+ECAL Lab, premiering in the U.S. at swissnex San Francisco.
All five installations in the exhibit layer virtual imagery over a real-world environment and give new meaning to everyday objects. In the dreamy Le Monde des Montagnes (The World of Mountains), an ECAL graduate project by Camille Scherrer awarded the Pierre Bergé prize for Best European Design Diploma in 2008, a handmade book about the Swiss mountains sits on a table. Above hovers a camera disguised as a desk lamp that’s linked to a nearby monitor. But when a user adjusts the “lamp” or moves the book in her hands, the picture on the screen depicts a fantasy land where peculiar, other-worldy images—images that aren’t there in the hardcopy—glide across the pages: Snowflakes fall, birds fly, forest creatures peer from trees.
In Cashback, another installation in the exhibit, a banknote flashed on a screen delivers a flash—in a sense—of its own: The bill comes to life in a rather risqué way (think prancing men and women in their underwear). You’ll never see money quite the same way again.
The installations in Give me More, created in collaboration with the Computer Vision Laboratory at EPFL, represent a milestone in the development of AR; a new relationship between design and technology. The Computer Vision Laboratory managed to build AR software that gives the user an almost magical experience with little trace of the technical thumbprints you’d expect while still offering a reliable, high-speed product. As a result, technology fades away to reveal the full extent of the universe created by the designers: a novel medium, rich with new meaning. Ready for more?
A material science engineer from EPFL, since 2000, Henchoz has worked as a professional journalist, news anchor, producer, and short film director. He also founded and directed ICAT, a branding, communication and identity management company.
He currently shares his time between two positions: advisor and head of communications for the President of EPFL, director of EPFL+ECAL Lab, which he founded in 2007.
He also sits on multiple boards, teaches at EPFL, IDHEAP (Institut de hautes études en administration publique), and at the Journalism School of Lausanne. His book, Art of the Void, was published in 2004.
Scherrer is a Swiss designer who “plays” at the intersection of technology and art. For Les Monde des Montagnes, she created her own universe inspired by animals, cable cars, old postcards, and the mountains where she grew up.
She graduated from ECAL (University of Art and Design, Lausanne) in 2008 in visual communication, and now works at EPFL+ECAL Lab. Her graduate work has been exhibited and written about internationally.
Fanny Riedo is a Swiss robotics engineer who believes that technology can bring fun into people’s lives. After graduating from the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne, also known as the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), in 2007, she’s been sharing her time between two positions: At the EPFL+ECAL Lab, she works on several collaborative projects between designers and engineers. And with the MOBOTS group at EPFL, she works on educational and home robotics. She took part in the development and production of the Thymio toy robot for the Robotics Festival at EPFL last May.
The EPFL+ECAL Lab is a new unit of the EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) in cooperation with ECAL (University of Art and Design Lausanne). Its mission is to foster innovation at a crossroads between technology, design, and architecture.
On its premises in the new ECAL building in Renens, the EPFL+ECAL Lab offers training as well as innovation projects and partnerships with industry. The Lab bases its activities along three axes: giving new meaning to technologies developed in the labs of EPFL, fuelling innovation by widening the scope of designers' work, and forming new links between research and applications for society.
The EPFL+ECAL Lab selects its projects based on technologies developed by EPFL labs along themes defined by designers or challenges issued by partners from industry. Industrial partners can therefore benefit from the creativity of both Schools, integrated in a spirit of free exploration ripe with novel ideas.