What’s the buzz? Check out The Humming Wall in Utzon Park!

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10418391_10152485587544522_2594904032742609652_nIf you were wandering around the Utzon Center yesterday, you may have noticed a group of people constructing something large and red in the park surrounding the center. It’s called The Humming Wall and it is an interactive art installation by the Urban Vibrations research group, which is based at AAU’s Department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology. The wall is more than something nice to look at and sit on – it actually hums, vibrates, and allows people to play music on it and the research team invite you and your friends to come and explore it from 26 June to 13 July!

Peripherally part of the EU-funded Culturally Enhanced Augmented Reality project (CultAR), the idea for the Humming Wall was conceived in two stages. First was an ethnographic study of the public’s use of Utzon Park. Researchers were interested in making an augmented reality (AR) project outdoors and chose Utzon Park due to its location, the size of the space, and the relative lack of people who use it. But first they visited the park and interviewed people there, asking such questions as: How often do you come here? How long do you usually spend in the park? What do you do here? What would you like to see added to the space? They found that people basically just pass through the park and many mentioned ‘art installations’, interactive or otherwise, when answering the fourth question. This affirmed what the team had in mind. The second part was an evolution of the type of interactive element that would be interesting and conducive to research. And here an old sketch of a rolled out scroll that team leader Ann Morrison had repeatedly drawn in her sketch notebooks and kept in the back of her mind came to the fore. As the team brainstormed ideas for the installation, she drew the design on a white board and it was met with enthusiasm. Refinements of the design began in December 2013.

So what is the installation, actually? At its most basic, the wall is a structure that offers a way for strangers to interact. You can sit side-by-side on the wall’s benches, tap it, hit it, stroke it, etc. and make music thanks to feedback that is processed via a remote server. “The wall offers a nice way to get people to linger and interact in ways they wouldn’t normally,” explained Morrison. “It’s a playful piece of furniture.” The installation will also include interactive animation loops from award winning Hollow Land by Michelle and Uri Kranot playing in a shipping container adjacent to the wall starting in early July.

The CultAR project only funds outdoor installations working with cultural content provided by municipalities, so The Humming Wall was extra work, which required a supportive, dedicated, and engaged team. (You can see who is involved here.) The Humming Wall also needed additional funding in order to be realized. Support came from Aalborg Kommune, Odico, the Obelske Foundation, and RealDania. The researchers collaborated with Odico Robotics and under the guidance of team member Walther Jensen drafted a 3D design and figured out the sealant surface to make the structure waterproof, among many other design activities.

The project has been in progress for six months and will open officially on Friday, 27 June at noon, when city officials, funders, and members of the community come together for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. However, the research side of the project begins the day before when field trials start. These will involve hour-long sessions wearing interactive and augmented reality (AR) technologies that interact with the wall. All are invited to participate in the trials – the more the merrier! People need to sign up in pairs (or groups of 3); a sign-up sheet will be available at the wall’s opening on Friday – otherwise you can email or phone Ann Morrison. See contact details here. Trials will run through 13 July, when the wall will be taken down.

For more information about the wall, see the project website or Facebook page: Utzon Park Demo Event https://www.facebook.com/groups/UtzonParkDemoEvent/.

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