Last week when I was in New York I went to visit some friends from California.
One day between the Maker Faire and the New York Games Conference, I spent an afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). I wanted to check out a new exhibit that includes – along with a lot of other really cool work – Sifteo cubes!
The exhibit is called “Talk to Me”, and its focus is the modern relationship between people and technology, particularly how our technological artifacts communicate with us. It features “..a variety of designs that enhance communicative possibilities and embody a new balance between technology and people, bringing technological breakthroughs up or down to a comfortable, understandable human scale.”
Walking around the exhibition I was excited to see inspiring work by friends and colleagues including Golan Levin, David Rose, Aaron Koblin, Eric Schweikardt and Ayah Bdeir, as well as other artists like Zach Lieberman and Toshio Iwai whose work I admire but that I haven’t yet had the chance to meet. I felt like I was walking through the workshop of a tribe of playful, inventive technologists who all want to change the world for the better. My people!
The Sifteo installation includes three cubes in a charging dock and a video screen. The cubes run a special app (written by intern extraordinaire Max Meyers) that cycles through scenes from a variety of Sifteo games, and the video screen shows an overview to illustrate what real play looks like.
There are some quirky aspects to how the works are described in an art exhibition like Talk to Me. The one I noticed first is that a label next to every piece identifies the materials that it’s made of. I don’t know how this tradition started, but art exhibitions seem to require these little lists. The Sifteo list contains “ABS, polycarbonate, LCDs, electronics, motion and proximity sensors, and C code software.” I think these materials lists kinda miss the point for interactive systems, especially consumer electronics that are all made of pretty much the same physical stuff. The interactive behavior is where the real magic is found. But when in Rome… The other thing I reflected on is that while Jeevan and I are listed as the designers of the piece, what you see beneath the glass was a team effort that involved lots of other talented folks at Sifteo who contributed game design, programming, art, hardware design, and manufacturing expertise.
It made me really proud to see Sifteo cubes in the MoMA. They were designed for everyday use rather than as works of art, but I appreciate the recognition that our product pushes people’s interactions with technology in a new direction, bringing it to a “comfortable, understandable human scale.”