MET Studio | FusionWorld
MET Studio’s role was as creative director and concept designer of the FusionWorld gallery, as well as overseeing design implementation, which was carried out by regional specialists Design Act Pte Ltd (with AV exhibits developed to MET Studio’s specification by Multi Media People).
The brief to MET Studio was to showcase selected technologies developed by A*STAR’s SERC (itself made up of eight research institutes or ‘RIs’) to potential new clients, as well as to a secondary audience of students, at Fusionopolis. Fusionopolis is made up of a huge complex of new buildings, located along the Buona Vista Road. The first phase of Fusionopolis development has been completed and there are five further phases still to come. The 700 sq m gallery took the form of a long, edge space on the 13th floor of the building.
‘Our brief’, commented Fusion World’s lead designer, MET Studio’s Peter Karn, ‘was to create a ‘technology wonderland’, where both public and corporate guests could book to attend a focused demonstration of the latest advances and achievements created by SERC and A*STAR.’ The gallery’s content, therefore, had to be able to be understood by both a specialist and a lay audience. ‘The result’, explained Peter Karn, ‘is a theatrical and layered inspirational teaser space, where showcase guides can go into as much or as little detail as they wish, showing prototypes where required or simply allowing the gallery’s ‘wow factor’ to dominate.’
The overall experience was split into five key zones: Home, Enterprise, Medical, Move (focusing on transportation), Lounge (in the form of a futuristic VIP lounge for presentations). Each zone works on three levels: first of all, it demonstrates the research that has been undertaken; secondly, it showcases and actual prototypes and, finally, it contextualises each technological advance by demonstrating the lifestyle effects it can bring about for people in their everyday lives. The exhibits and spaces work on all three levels, so that the technology is humanised and the mood is diverted from the potential presentation of scientific, complex and cold facts to a real human situation that engenders empathy.
In between the four areas are transitional areas, which have a functional purpose (to allow pauses for circulation as tour groups move from space to space), but which also allow for the creation of technological art installations: a further way to humanise the technology on show, by creating more intriguing, abstract experiences. ‘One of our major design challenges‘ commented Peter Karn, ‘was to make the gallery easily updateable for the client, as technology is prone to rapid changes. We achieved this by using a lot of ‘plug and play’ modular software solutions, so that new technology could always be dropped into an existing framework. The permanent gallery graphics are also decorative rather than informative, so that they are built for longevity.’
On arrival, visitors will sign in at registration kiosks, where they are each given an RFID (radio frequency identification) tag. They will then proceed to a handshake and introduction area, in the form of a darkened, circular space with projected images, where they are introduced to an avatar character called Maya, who serves as a virtual tour guide.
The first key zone – Home – takes the form of an open-plan home space, which mixes antique and contemporary furniture in a believable, realistic environment. Pictures on the wall are made up of visitors’ faces created as 3D models (using A*STAR technology, which converts 2D to 3D imagery in a matter of seconds). Virtual French windows look out onto a rear-projected garden scene, where an avatar is sitting, drinking coffee. The virtual garden includes photo-voltaic panels and self-cleaning glass (using UV rays). Whilst the avatar explains the self-cleaning coating, a sudden simulated rain shower shows up across all the virtual windows within the home and feels like a genuine change in the weather. A central interactive television in the home space can be activated by visitor’s hand movements, giving a physical demonstration of the A*STAR‘s home and entertainment technologies.
An LCD screen in the kitchen area concealed behind glass becomes visible, whilst the bathroom area features a lightbox floor and screens, showing you how television programmes can follow you seamlessly around the house. The first transition space then follows on. ‘Each transition area is developed around either an activity or a specific time of day’, explained Peter Karn. ‘This first space had to express a sense of morning time and so we transformed what is effectively a corridor into a magical animated space with white glass-covered gauze walls and fabric welded to the ceiling, onto which are projected motion-activated birds, trees and leaves, so that the birds fly away from you as you pass through.’
The second major area is Enterprise and Medical. The enterprise area is created as an office, dominated by a collaborative workbench, showing how technology can enhance creative thinking and problem solving via the sharing of ideas. Visitors gather around the bench, which hosts a series of objects, each one representing a different A*STAR technology. By moving each into a ‘hot spot’, a video is triggered to explain that particular technology. Taking up one long wall in the space is a virtual window into a futuristic factory, where the avatar talks about A*STAR technologies in the manufacturing sector.
The medical space takes the form of a lab of the future, with a collaborative central exhibit in the form of a projected patient, where Maya goes on to introduce the set-up and benefits of the technology on show. At the other end is a bed, embedded with fibre sensors, that monitors a patient’s health as a way of life. LED lights on the wall and a wall exhibit show how the patient’s sleep patterns can be followed and his or her heartbeat regulated with alarm systems.
The second transition area shows how technology and art can meet simply and effectively, in the form of a room full of yellow industrial fans, which work as a giant extractor system and turn on as visitors approach, underlining an immediate connection between people and technology. The Move area follows on, made up of a series of futuristic motorbikes, with 3D headsets, which take visitors on a journey through Singapore in the future, filled with visions of future transportation, with A*STAR technologies subtly presented along the way. The third and final transition space is set in the evening, in the form of an evening sunset visual representing the journey back home from work or school.
The exhibition ends in the Lounge space, a conclusion zone to the whole FusionWorld experience, where a full colour-wash lighting spectrum comes into play, including multi-touch interactive tables, where you can write messages and send them to a large screen display. A mobile touch screen unit allows you to access the A*STAR database (which can email information directly to the visitor) or else be used as a presentation lectern for the company’s research team to deliver targeted summations for each user group.
Professor Lye Kin Mun, Deputy Executive Director (Research) of A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (also the host Institute for FusionWorld) commented: ‘FusionWorld aims to be a fun and exciting showroom for introducing our innovations to our stakeholders, potential partners and customers. By presenting technologies in the context of their applications, we hope not only to portray the unique and specialised features of each concept prototype and technology, but also to allow visitors to imagine other possibilities in their own businesses. This will in turn strengthen existing partnerships and foster new ones, with the end goal of supporting the growth of the knowledge-based economy of Singapore.’Location: Singapore Architect: MET Studio Client: Fusionopolis
Size: 600 sq m
Budget: £1 million