Prix Ars Electronica


Ars Electronica Linz & ORF Oberösterreich

Risky Investments for the Future of Interactive Media

Horst Hörtner

Curiosity alone always makes the new exciting. And this year, the Ars Electronica “Research and Artist-in-Residence” Program, entitled [the next idea], is new. Though above all it is the contents of the entries which are new. Up for evaluation in this category are not projects which have already been implemented, but ideas and concepts whose realization lies in the future. The target group of [the next idea] includes creative men and women between the ages of twenty and twenty-seven – from around the globe. In other words, largely that age group which until this year’s Prix Ars Electronica had hardly had a forum at the event. And this was so because either they were too old to enter u19 or, due to their youth, they have hardly had a chance to realize projects needing third-party financing and hence to submit results to one of the Prix Ars Electronica categories. Thus [the next idea] is devoted to the prospective ideas of those who stand out today for their innovative, original, visionary, mad but feasible, media-minded concepts – so to speak, “risky investments” for the future of interactive media... in accordance with the motto: “No risk, no fun!“


Akio Kamisato / Satoshi Shibata / Takehisa Massimo Akio Kamisato, Satoshi Shibata and Takehisa Mashimo’s entry, the moony project, is conceived to let participants take virtual butterflies “into their own hands”, to pet and play with them, to interact with these three-dimensional “fleeting beings”. The butterflies are to be projected onto the water vapors rising from a horizontal steam-generating plate, while tracking occurs via camera and image recognition technology.

The documentary material submitted, a video with a display prototype, convinced the jury that there was also a chance of the project being realized.

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is seen by many fields as one of the key technologies of the future. New and previously inconceivable interfaces at the boundaries between real and virtual space are required to fully explore the possibilities of digital life accompaniment. For some time now, HCI has not just been a topic of research at universities. The development of new user-friendly hardware and software determines whether products will succeed or fail and thus what form different areas of our lives will take. From the automobile to the cell phone, the washing machine to the gas-station pump or the waiting-room table... Computers, hidden within everyday objects, are taking over ever larger tasks. And this requires ever more intuitive and powerful user interfaces.

moony’s concept involves just such “intuitive” user interfaces. Though above all it is an experiment. Without disregarding the emotional element, the team has designed a “user interface for virtual butterflies” in what is presumably the best way possible today. “Presumably” because the idea must still be implemented. A “user interface for virtual butterflies”, is this mad or ingenious? Who can tell at this point? The Prix Ars Electronica has decided to take exactly such risks with its new section [the next idea].

Some of the other concepts submitted in this category were:

Ctrl-Shift by Jason Quinn Corace (USA), a radical social experiment in which a person hands over his free will to a digital community. Ctrl-Shift also makes reference to our being at the mercy of digital communication.

SinkTop by Yuji Nakada and Tomofumi Yoshida (J), a very successful satire on the latest pervasive computing trends and how they are rapidly spreading. This entry questions the efficiency of diverse technological achievements.

Centralia Community by Brett Jackson (USA), a concept for new business and training models. In an online game, competition and profile management are automated. Performance and achievement go hand in hand and are viewed by the jury as an interesting stimulus for new didactic developments.

Touchy Chattels by Martin Zeplichal (A), an artistic concept on the topic of pervasive computing. “Thinking items” compete with each other for the user’s favor and attention.

Visual Resonator by Junji Watanabe and Maki Sugimoto (J), a concept for the development of totally new forms of communication. On the surface they seem to be nonsensical, yet the apparatus which has been thought out here enforces the principle that four eyes see more than two. Natural face-to-face communication as such is prevented, even though the interlocutors are in the same room. Only when they contemplate a specific object together does an ad hoc channel for communication open up. This may turn out to be the ideal flirting device for the timid.

In conclusion, the jury has one wish. The thematic spectrum of the concepts entered was as vast as their geographic range—covering Asia, North and Latin America, Europe, Africa and Australia. Yet in light of the many international entries, we could not but notice that one country was meagrely represented: Austria. Hence our wish: we would like to see more projects from Austria, and especially from those free and independent groups for which this category was largely created.

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