Audio Space

Posted in MediaArt by tpdr on December 1, 2008

Theodore Watson is a designer, artist and experimenter interested in designing experiences that invite to play. One of his most famous projects might be the Laser Tag of Graffiti Research Lab and Funky Forest.


The project I would like to discuss here is called Audio Space and focuses on the correlation of memory, sound and space. His investigation of the effect of sound on architecture has led to a first Audio Space (2005) in which people would walk around with a headset. Without this headset the room/space just looks empty, once you get inside with the headset you hear the sounds that fill the room. Contrary to other interactive environments he made, this one involves sounds instead of visuals. This doesn’t mean it is not related to his other activities, as it is still an augmented space leading to a playful experience.


The first Audio Space used the sounds people made on the spot. In the latest version the sounds are still added by visitors only this time they are made more abstract. Abstract or literal, it doesn’t really matter as both Audio Spaces invite visitors to participate by adding new sounds although it is not forbidden to just explore the room/sounds as left behind by previous visitors.


Obviously I chose to write about this project because it is not like most projects labelled as Augmented Reality. This kind of installation works with a more ‘invisible’ augmented reality just as you could do similar projects using smell, taste or touch. An example of this last option is Invisible Maze made by Jeppe Hein. This project lets you experience invisible walls as your helmet vibrates every time you run into one.


Now I just won’t judge the projects I mentioned, I just wanted to use them as examples of interesting possibilities that might not have been explored enough at this time within the field of Augmented Reality. For me the most important fact to remember is that Augmented Reality doesn’t have to rely on visuals and it should be fascinating to explore the ‘Invisible Augmented Reality’ of taste, smell and touch.


This article is based on: Audio Space – An Interview with Theo Watson by Deanne Herst – Tagmag 06 – Augmented Reality: Superimposing the Virtual – p12-15