nteraction design as core competence manifests itself in the lab-atelier’s activities via an approach to man-machine interaction that stays focused on the process of mediation itself—in real space, in screen-based media and in 3D space. The idea behind a human-computer interface is not conceived of by taking its endpoints (device–user) as the starting point, but rather on the basis of the aesthetic, content-driven and functional dramaturgies that develop within the interaction. Thus, the technological solution is only a secondary consideration in the design of interaction processes, since this is primarily dictated by the demands that the contents place on the interaction. By focusing on the intuitive interaction with content, the content and the medium transporting it are assumed to be identical and the user interface is designed correspondingly—in contrast to the way a computer is operated by means of conventional input techniques. So, for one thing, the lab-atelier works out interaction metaphors that are derivatives of human beings’ repertoire of collective memory and accustomed modes of haptic interaction in the form of design ideas for processes of exchange. On the other hand, the Futurelab also creates interaction paradigms that, in correspondence to completely novel manifestations, phenomena and depiction possibilities, are truly pioneering efforts that have to be tested in a type of proving-ground setting first.

he Ars Electronica Futurelab’s specific approach to the theory and practice of interaction design can be considered a superstructure of all of the lab-atelier’s activities in the areas of Digital Surfaces, Virtual Environments and Interactive Spaces.

At present, it is work in the fields of Media Art and Architecture, Exhibits, Media Performances and Information Design that make it clear how specialized typologies of projects develop from interaction design as the area of core competence. These various project types are indicative of the lab-atelier’s transdisciplinary approach; they are undergoing continuous development and new types are steadily being added to the mix. In addition to the current array of fully elaborated project typologies, there exists a series of additional focal-point projects in the field of interaction design including high-end 3D visualization and animation, industrial simulation and Web-based applications.

Digital Surfaces

he development of strategies for mediating the encounter with digital content is one of the key issues being raised by the prospect of a digital future. "Digital Surfaces" are interfaces whose design can be the key to success in disseminating content on monitor screens in the home, in public spaces, in exhibitions, museums and educational institutions. "Digital Surfaces" deal with new approaches to designing information flow that go beyond the use of computer screen and mouse. Intelligent user interfaces identify their environment, communicate with users and react to their behavior. Users should be able to interact, communicate and acquire information in an intuitive, natural and simple way. One approach to a solution proceeds from the desirability of actively integrating user technologies that are commonly subsumed under the headings "mixed reality" and "augmented reality."

Virtual Environments

he design and implementation of functional virtual environments is based on two preconditions - the creation of suitable technical infrastructure and the appropriate presentation of the content that is to be featured. Often, one aspect or the other is determinative - that is, either the content has to be adapted to the medium or the infrastructure has to be expanded to accommodate what the material calls for. In order to live up to these demands, the Ars Electronica Futurelab undertakes intensive research in the fields of human-computer interfacing, visualization and interaction in virtual space in an effort to create an ideal constellation customized to each individual application. Products subsumed under the general heading "Virtual Environments" range from architectural visualizations and industrial simulations all the way to purely artistic and experimental projects.

The aim of the Ars Electronica Futurelab's focus on "Virtual Environments" is to achieve a combination of graphic quality and intuitive user interaction. Rapid technological development-most of it triggered by the entertainment industry-has been generating an uninterrupted series of new opportunities and challenges in connection with visualization, 3-D graphics and animation. The evolution of virtual worlds has shown that content design assumes a role that is at least as significant as that of the technological preconditions, which have been following the same principles since the early days of VR.

Interactive Spaces

nteractive Space focuses on the relationship of interactive media to real space that can be physically experienced. The use of digital media gives rise to new spaces and conceptions of space that have an impact on the material space surrounding us. This gives rise to a hybrid space in which virtual and real space blend together and reciprocally influence each other. In context-sensitive and intelligent settings, the physical delimitation of the space is eliminated via functional, experience-oriented or artistic dramaturgies: the space’s architectural facts and circumstances flow into the scenographic considerations; the space itself becomes an interface, a transporter of information, a display. Interaction concepts that function on the desktop/screen have to be reconceptualized for this space - above all in response to the demands of the respective contextual conditions prevailing in, for example, a public space, or the special requirements of an exhibition dramaturgy. Moreover, considerations having to do with the “Internet of things” and integrated systems for use on the job as well as for fun are opening up new fields of activity: the creation of intelligent communications networks linking up spaces, technologies and human beings, as well as the development and evaluation of hardware interfaces.
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