We tend to think of the Internet as an abstract idea, an amorphous and invisible network of information, that operates independently from the physical world. Google Creative Lab, in collaboration with the experience-design and engineering company Tellart, as well as production partners B-Reel, Universaldesignstudio, Fraser Randall and Karsten Schmidt, was looking to show you how tangible–how physical–the Internet can be. Their vehicle is the Web Lab, an interactive exhibit for creating art and music at the London Science Museum. But you don’t actually have to be in the U.K. to experience the Web Lab, and that’s very much the point. Sitting at my computer in New York, I can watch a song that I’ve composed online or a picture that I’ve scanned, come to life, in real time, across the ocean.
“When we stand in the museum, and know that we are playing music with people all over the world–on real physical instruments–it feels magical,” says Tellart Cofounder and CEO, Matt Cottam. And for the people visiting through the web, “the physical machines create an exciting sense of social presence and “realness”… that a purely digital experience might not.”
Most of us still think about the online world of our computers and smartphones as distinct from the physical world–the blender in my kitchen or the piano in my living room. The Web Lab moves us one step closer to collapsing the distance between the two. It works like this. When you visit the Lab in person or go to the online hub, you’re given a unique ID, a visual Lab Tag, represented by colorful intersecting shapes. This tag functions like a QR code (but is significantly more attractive) and allows users to save the artwork and music they’ve created as well as explore the work that other visitors have made.
Click through the slide show above for images from my favorite Web Lab exhibits and insights from Tellart.