8.23.2006

Spirit Flights Over the Quilt



There's an art exhibit here at UC Irvine in conjunction with SECT, and they have two Tilty Tables from Onomy Labs to play with.

Basically these are tables whose tops you grab with both hands. You can tilt the table-top up and down in all four directions. The surface of the tabletop bears a projection that moves as you tilt it. Imagine a flat computer screen on the tabletop, and instead of a mouse or tracball, your tilting scrolls across the large image.

As an information interface in and of itself, this didn't strike me as particualrly impressive - what improvement does it offer on tracballs, mice, screens, etc? -- but content can change that.

One table was the Quilty Table, and its image was a large overhead view of many, many panels from the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. As you scroll across it, in multiple directions, looking down on the panels, flexing your arm muscles to direct your motion, the experience is very evocative of ... flying.

And when you're dealing with an AIDS memorial, you're thinking of death .. and death + flying...

Well, the experience very much suggests being a spirit or ghost flying above looking down at the quilt. You feel like one of the AIDS deaths, looking down at their own memorial. It was very haunting, especially if you've seen the quilt in person. Check out this mpg movie of the proposal for the "quilty table."

But it also was a great example of how an interface can seem insignificant until married with content that takes advantage of its unique properties.

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