Tech is also fun & art: see NYC Makers. The Italians: @littleBits and Gaetano Pesce

Tech is also fun and art in New York. If you don’t believe it, go and visit NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial, the exhibition that opened on July 1st at the Museum of Arts and Design (going on until October 12, 2 Columbus Circle, NYC). You can see the work of 100 makers, artisans, artists, and designers that are based in the City and were selected by a jury to represent the highest level of skill in their respective field. Some of them use technology to create their work in very interesting ways.

«Since its founding, the Museum of Arts and Design has championed the way that artists and designers transform the world around us, using both traditional and cutting-edge creative processes – explains MAD’s new director Glenn Adamson -. This exhibition reflects this core mission across the full range of crafted production, and establishes a new paradigm of 21st-century making as an engine for creative industry». Here you are some of the works that impressed me more.

On the 4th floor there is the wearable technology by Aisen Caro Chacin, who has been featured as an “Inventor in Future Tech” by Discovery Channel. «She is also a bucket of ideas open to merge and exchange with other buckets… to create cooperative work», says her website. Now she focuses on Human Computer Interaction HCI, designing new interfaces for information display. For example “Play-A-Grill” is a mouthpiece that allows the wearer experience sound through the jawbone and skull instead of the ears, and “Echolocation Headphones” allow the wearer to determine space through parametric sound, like a bat.


Aisen Caro Chacin with her wearable technology

On the 5th floor you’ll admire “Echo Hat” by H E I D I L E E. “It’s made with 3D printing by Shapeways”, tells me the artist Heidi Lee, who is wearing a smaller red version of the hat. Shapeways has the largest 3D printing manufacturing facility in NYC, called the “Factory of the Future,” in Long Island City, Queens.


Heidi Lee or H E I D I L E E with one of her 3D printed hat

“Synth Spin Table” is a turntable-based synthesizer, one of the many possible applications of littleBits, which is “the most versatile way to learn and prototype with electronics”. In other words it’s a sort of Lego teaching about the basics of electronics. Each bit has a specific  function – light, sound, sensors, activators, motors, etc. – and modules snap together to make larger circuits.


“Synth Spin Table” by littleBits

The Italian Federico Zannier is one of the team of engineers and designers who created in New York “Power Clip prototype 2.0”. The others are Robin Reid, Phil Groman, and Surya Mattu. The PowerClip is a device that gives first responders immediate access to power in the wake of an emergency, such as Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The compact unit provides an efficient and inexpensive power source to charge appliances through USB from a car battery. “It is included in the Biennial – reads the catalogue – not only to signal respect for the work of skilled prototypers, but also because it exemplifies the empowering dimension of new design”.


“Power Clip prototype 2.0”

The Italian featured in the exhibition is much more famous: the architect and designer Gaetano Pesce, who since 1980 has been living and working in New York, in his Soho studio. He’s known for embracing new and unexpected materials in his designs: here you see a sort of “liquid” screen made of resin, “Ritratto di quello che non guarda (o almeno così sembra…)” or “Portrait of the one who doesn’t look (or at least it doesn’t seems so…)”.


Gaetano Pesce’s “Ritratto di quello che non guarda (o almeno così sembra…)”

Finally, I got attracted by “The DeptKit”: an open-source software and hardware, which allows filmmakers to augment video with data 3D scanned from a depth-sensing camera. It’s and ongoing project by the developer James George, the experimental photographer Alexander Porter, and the documentarian Jonathan Minard. “The DepthKit invites you to imagine the future of filmmaking – reads its website -. Repurposing the depth sensing camera from the Microsoft Kinect or Asus Xtion Pro as an accessory to your HD DSLR camera, the open source hardware and software captures and visualizes the world as mesmerizing wireframe forms. A CGI and video hybrid, the data can be rephotographed from any angle in post.” I played with it for a while, and here is the result:

Tips: MAD has a museum store with made in NYC objects, including wonderful jewels ( ); and of the top floor there is Robert restaurant with stunning views and live jazz on Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Fridays ( ).

NB: Originally published on StartupItalia!

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