Distance Lab

Mutsugoto

Distance Lab was a Scottish creative research organization, created with the goal of “bringing together digital media technology, design and the arts to redefine and overcome the disadvantages of distance in learning, health care, relationships, culture and other domains.” Unfortunately, the BBC reports that they have recently closed down.

Two of their most publicized projects were Mutsugoto, first shown in 2007, and Remote Impact, first shown in 2008.

Mutsugoto was a surprisingly intimate project, intended for the bedroom. It allowed “distant partners to communicate through the language of touch as expressed on the canvas of the human body.” While it’s not at all what you’d expect to see come out of a lab like this, it’s great to see support for explorations of technology and private behaviors.

By contrast, Remote Impact was an aggressive, full-body, shadow-boxing experience where participants could throw their whole body against the display. Energetic and bold, it’s far from the usual distance experiences where connections are more cerebral than physical.

I hadn’t heard of the lab before, but it’s interesting to look through their projects list. It’s full of experiments on how to engage users at a more physical level even though they may be separated by great distances. A great collection of experiments with interactivity.

Update (27-Jan-11):

I recently received an email from Stefan Agamanolis, former Chief Exec / Research Director of Distance Lab, who had this to add:

Thank you for the mention and for caring 🙂 I wanted to let you know that actually the situation is not really as “unfortunate” as it seems because Distance Lab was responsible for attracting the Glasgow School of Art to the region to set up an initiative called the “Centre for Design Innovation” which took over the Distance Lab facilities as well as 3 staff and certain active projects.

We knew fairly soon after launching Distance Lab that it would never be sustainable unless it could become part of university (to get access to government sources of funding reserved for universities). The Glasgow School of Art became interested, though in the deal-making, they wanted to change the name and give it a “fresh start”, which is entirely fair and to be expected in these kinds of things. In any case, we were all working hard to achieve a lasting impact like this, and the GSA base is a great success for the region.

This article talks a bit more about it.

Mutsugoto

Remote Impact
Remote Impact

(Link via Putting People First.)