In the SAP Data Space Berlin, we created an inspirational tool for creative meetings (the Data Room) and a generative visualization for the products customers order in the fully digitized Data Kitchen café.

An Ars Electronica Futurelab Project. Role: Artist & Lead Developer.

Data Room

Ars Electronica Blog Entry

Creativity is just connecting things. — Steve Jobs

Finding ideas means to connect experience, knowledge and speculation. Focused research and serendipitous inspiration are combined to synthesise the new. This process cannot be automated; but the machine can combine its own version of associative “thinking” with its access to gigantic amounts of data, and become a little less of a pure tool and a little more of a co-author, complementing human strengths.

In the Ideation Room, an environment in which walls and table are all high-resolution, interactive displays, the user supplies the building block of an idea as a text or image element, and launches a chain of association from it: An algorithm scours data sources for images, terms and articles that could relate to the supplied element because they are relevant and inspiring to different degrees. The data sources are carefully curated databases of blogs and digital pinboards as well as a variety of search and tagging services - from news aggregators to thesauri and image classifiers. Some of the results are, in turn, immediately used as launching points of further automatic associations, growing the wealth of related elements into a tree structure; the users, too, can spark new association chains on any of the returned elements. In this way, a network of semantic connections is created - some of them logical, some surprising.

During the whole process, the users collect and sort content on the virtual surfaces of the table, until, finally, a visual topology of the unfolding of thoughts and discussions will have materialised - a document of ideation through a dialogue of humans and machines.

Data Kitchen - “Food Wall” Visualization

Ars Electronica Blog Entry

In the Data Kitchen, the ordering and serving of food and drink is subject to a wholly digitized and automated process; only the preparation of the food is left to the - all the more creative and diligent - human hand.

The customer doesn’t see their order as a primarily presence-bound transaction (as in the traditional restaurant), but as a direct, unambiguous flow of information, at the end of which the food materializes in a futuristic light tunnel (the food wall box).

The abstract visualization of the order pays tribute to this magic: On the front of the box, a transparent high-res display, a dance of shapes takes place - monochromatic line patterns generated from the ingredients of the ordered products move across each other to form moiré-patterns; the contrast between light and shadow, transparent and opaque, accentuates the vibrance of the dishes all the more.

The algorithm that generates the shapes interprets the ingredient data purely structurall: Letter sequences become angles, word lengths become dimensions. The customers’ “avatars” are generated from the nicknames they enter based on similar laws: They are polygonal nets that continuously triangulate themselves, visible above the line patterns, similarly abstract and yet, over time, recognizable.

As direct, pure information, only the nickname itself and the box identifier remain visible on the display - a visual link, representative of the combination of efficient logistical automation and the return to creativity and variety of cooking.