konstantinos mouzakis | designer





2013, MA Communication Design - Research Project


3dMEDIA, is a research project, which attempts to give another perspective to the unconventional relation between our three-dimensional world and the two-dimensional nature of digital communications. The project aims at developing a potential medium, which provides both sender and receiver with an equal experience and shapes our environment in a way that approaches our physical and tangible world.

The present project constitutes my dissertation for my MA in Communication Design at Central Saint Martins, London. The development of the project lasted about a year in order to be presented in public in June 2013. You can find a pdf version of       the research paper book here.




Here you can enjoy some shots from Digital Futures,an open studio showcase presenting groundbreaking new work at Victoria and Alberts Museum, London.





Here you can enjoy some shots from the Central Saint Martins - MA Communication Design Degree Show 2013...


When I started my research, my initial thoughts were to bridge the gap between the physical and the digital social networks. However, the “Laws of Media” stated by Marshall McLuhan, inspired me to explore the actual nature of communication through digital mediums.

Through this process, research identified the unconventional relationship between our three dimensional world and the nature of digital communications which is still restrained in two dimension. As we move on, technological developments enable the sender to communicate a message in a really natural way. However, receiver is restricted in two dimensions. Realistic worlds have even been created inside the servers of the web. Such a system of communication make us question if we are gradually abandoning our real world for the shake of the virtual one we have built.


What we really need is a medium that radically changes the way we communicate through distance. Potentially if we develop a new medium that can provide both sender and receiver with an equal experience, then more of our senses would be stimulated. Therefore we will be able to experience a more physical and almost tangible way of communication through distance.


The idea of the project is to develop a medium that approaches more the physical and tangible world of our senses. The first thing that came to my mind was the pin art toy. An old and mechanical medium that if being hacked, it could provide as with amazing possibilities. The idea is to split the context of the device into an input and an output and then by pushing something here, a piece of space interacts somewhere else. This development urges a great diversity of potential mediums to be invented. Pushing the idea further, I am thinking of a sensor that captures human motion and feeds with data a three-dimensional fluid wall of rods. These rods will be the actual representation of the pixels of a screen that gain the ability to expand to the third dimension.


In order to define the final outcome, some experiments had to be conducted. These experiments gave me the opportunity not only to apply theory in practice but also to test the users engagement, the effectiveness of materials and the technology required to build such a medium, following the process of reverse engineering. The sample of users that took part weren't aware of the nature and the aim of the project and they didn’t get any kind of instructions as well. During the experiments, I measured the time needed for the users to start operating a device along with the time spent playing with it. Also, responses while interacting were logged and everyone was briefly interviewed.



As a first test, I designed a device where 8 motors where lifting some wooden pins according to the position of a wireless mouse, creating something like an dynamic wave. While enthusiasm and engagement were profound and direct I soon realise that it was based on the fact that users perceived the device as a robot in operation rather than a three-dimensional display. In other words they focused more on the lower and technical part rather that the upper part of the device.




The second experiment focused only on the output. In order to make users focus on the three dimensional projection, I had to come up with a really strong element. Thus, I replaced the wooden pins with acrylic rods and then I added the element of light, produced by small LEDs. This change proved to be very functional while it kept the users focused on the output and helped them to experience the whole procedure deeper.




The third experiment focused on the input. At this stage I used a 3d scanner that could capture volume and motion in high precision. Then I designed an interface where people could see themselves on a screen illustrated by tiny white dots. In the scanning area in front of the sensor I defined a small cube visible only through the interface. Whenever something was entering the interaction area, its white points were converted to green. Despite engagement was direct, I realised that users tried to define the interaction area before play with it and  that the obvious presence of the scanner was distractive enough. 



Taking into account the knowledge of the previous experiments, I moved to the last test where the previous elements were linked together. In order to define the interaction area of the input, I added the element of air, produced by a small fan. This allowed me to simply define that area of space just by recirculating an element that already existed there and that didn’t obstruct the natural human motion. Moreover, users perceived air as the scanning medium and therefore they were forced to focus on the interaction with it.




As a conclusion from the previous tests and research, I came up with the basic principles of the developing medium.

Regarding the context, a really strong element or a theme should be used, both on input and output in order to maintain the focus of users in the procedure of communication. Moreover, all mechanical and electronic part of the device should be hidden in order not to distract or impress the users. Finally, the materials used must transmit directly a physical sense, when someone touches the device in order to raise the emotional factor.

Regarding the content, the new medium is an actual extension of reach of the human body. Its function is not only inspired from the pin art toy but also from a great diversity of other mediums, such as a pixel screen. Its purpose is not to replace the direct human communication but it attempts to change the way we perceive digital communications through distance. It is an example that shows that technology can be used to shape our environment in a way that approaches more the physical and tangible world of our senses.


Since the budget required for building a whole wall of rods is enormous, the first complete attempt of the new medium was accomplished in smaller scale. After solving numerous of programming and technical issues, the final outcome consists of an 8x8 grid of lighted acrylic rods. The device projects any volume and motion scanned by the input source in three dimensions and in real time. Its structure hides all the technology inside and allows only the rods and the light to escape. Moreover, it can be placed in any position and orientation, according to the specific circumstances. 


For the needs of our degree show, a specific setup is designed as an input. It will be a device similar to the output and it will hide inside the 3D scanner and some fans. Air will be transmitted to the interaction area through small slots, each time something enters in it. The input device should be clearly separated from the output, by a noticeable distance or an obstacle, in order for the “communication through distance” to be possible.


A potential next step of the evolution of this medium can be suggested as a merge of the input and the output into one part. Then by having two devices that the one reflects the other, we could experience a Skype-like communication but in a more physical way. Obviously, the development of such a device requires even more sophisticated technology as well as a great budget. However, the present research acknowledges that such a further step raises too many questions to be investigated that hopefully will push the medium to the unknown.


Here you can enjoy some shots taken during the stressful procedure of developing the final device...


...thank you for watching!

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