The Laboratory for Interactive Technologies – eLab for short – is set up as an experimental interdisciplinary research platform to investigate the art and design dimensions of media and information technologies.
These technologies are becoming increasingly prevalent in all walks of life: After a phase of digital abstraction dominated by the monitor and the mouse, a matured, more sophisticated digital technology is again turning to concrete, graspable things. This fundamentally changes how artifacts are perceived and dealt with: artifacts develop an additional mediated dimension, they are networked, have a memory, or are even intelligent. Digital technology is again graspable, and this neo-analog hands-on graspability must be designed. Technical innovation is not decisive for the success of these new concepts; rather, the achievement lies in creating plausible forms of interaction – be it in the field of information brokering, product design, or intelligent textiles.
The demands made on design are correspondingly more challenging. In addition to the design of the physical form, the physical context of use and the visual appearance, design must also allow the user to experience and manage the initially invisible functions and qualities that these new products embody or provide. Just as the insight that designers play an essential role in the development of the product’s physical form and/or graphic appearance has been recognized, so the realization is now slowly dawning that complex user processes must be also designed with equally meticulous attention, that these processes have an aesthetic dimension and contribute decisively to a product’s success. In the art school context, this means that along with the classical simulation and model-building techniques a new infrastructure is available that makes it possible to generate hard- and software sketches. The eLab makes it possible to test prototypes of product, function and interface concepts using electronic mock-ups and, in turn, to use successive iterations to empirically fine-tune the interaction scenarios.
The interdisciplinary conception of the eLab ensures that innovative developments, which often take place precisely between classic disciplines, are seen and addressed. The focus is on the experimental research, development, and design of physical interfaces, i.e., interactive products and environments, interactive exhibits and media facades, wearable computing, but also the design and implementation of software applications such as web-based mobile applications. To generate physical artifacts that can house the electronics, the Lab for Interactive Technologies cooperates closely with weißensee academy’s rapid prototyping workshop.