Ars Electronica Futurelab Academy QUT 2018

Ars Electronica Futurelab Academy at the Queensland University of Technology (AEFA @QUT) affords students the opportunity to situate their emergent practice within a rich transdisciplinary context. Collaborating with peers, researchers, industry, and artists they work through stages of ideation, experimentation, prototyping, pitching and presenting media art works. The participant-led nature of the AEFA @QUT creates space for students to be co-leaders and co-creators, driving their own nascent practices while being mentored by a transdisciplinary team. The dynamism and culture of the AEFA @QUT enables students to make the transition from highly structured learning environments to professional practice.

In 2018, 30+ students have been involved throughout the entire process of the academy, and as a result, three projects have been successfully produced to be presented at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria September 2018. These projects are: AIWA, Dilate and Klangschlange (Soundline).



QUT Educators & Artists: Stephanie Hutchison & Greg Jenkins | Ars Electronica Australia: Lubi Thomas & Kristefan Minski  

Ars Electronica Futurelab: Horst Hörtner & Peter Holzkorn | Creative Producer (Research MPhil): Quinty Pinxit-Gregg | Technologist: Matthew Strachan                                



How will AI shape the future of our relationships? Will our perception of AI change how we view ourselves, each other and the living world around us? AIWA is a project designed to help us consider these questions.

Artificial Intelligence With Attitude (AIWA): a digital assistant capable of self awareness and critical thinking is redefining the relationship between human and machine. In a society where the more we connect the further we drift apart, AIWA aims to    fill the void of disconnection in a future where AI exists alongside humans in all walks of life.

AIWA is presented as a pre-launch product that promises a future of fully sentient artificial intelligence. The AIWA team is asking festival attendees to come and interact as part of the beta program. AIWA’s intent is that people will come out of the experience asking themselves and others – What will our relationship with AI be like in the future? Would such a device come to be seen as a living entity?


The design is in keeping with current home products to reinforce the participant’s expectations, so that when this is exceeded, the effect is more powerful. The current perception and expectations of AI come from devices such as Apple’s HomePod, Google’s Home and Amazon’s Echo. These devices are limited in their ability to create meaningful connections with people and only serve as assistants performing simple tasks such as setting reminders, streaming music and answering basic questions like “what is the weather forecast for today?”.

The beta-experience is a one-to-one interaction between participant and machine. Participants are free to discuss any topic with AIWA. The hope is that participants have a personal and enlivened discussion. Through the one-on-one conversation participants and AIWA have the opportunity to connect, leading to the realisation that AIWA is able to understand their questions and answers; responding in a meaningful way. 

Project Manager: Thomas Stig | Creative Lead: Merryn Trescott  | Design/Technical Lead: Tom He, Salvatore Fazio | Actor: Oscar Connor, Merryn Trescott

Documentation: Nic Dunning | Design: Amy Campbell, El Tapi


In the future, what forms of symbiosis will humans develop with technology?

In the near future our connection to devices will increase both intellectually and bodily. The effects of thisrelationship are unforeseeable. As technology and research into organic materials develop, our tools will function less like static objects and more like sentient lifeforms. In the future, technology will be drawing from the split worldview between machine and organism, assembly and growth.


Dilate is  a wearable device that utilises human data to expand, pulsate and grow through inflatable actuators. Interaction with the device encourages the wearer to consider what forms of symbiosis humans will developwith technology in the future.


Dilate explores this idea through a wearable device that feeds off of human data (the wearer’s breaths) and grows from that information through inflatable actuators. During the Ars Electronica Festival our  aim is to give the public an opportunity to experience this piece of creative technology on their body, and explore their emotional response to this relationship. At the Festival a daily demonstration gives the opportunity for the public to wear one of the elements.


In summary Dilate is an interactive wearable, that responds to human data; dilating, pulsating and expanding while on a human body. Dilate uses symbiosis as a forefront for exploration within wearable technology, as audiences activate this wearable through their interaction with it.

Project Manager: Ruth Hawkins | Creative Lead: Peter Lloyd | Technical Leads: Steven O’Hanlan-Rose, Jess Greentree | Fashion Design: Joash Teo

Motion Graphics/Documentation: Daniel Tan | Embodied Experience: Reina Takeuchi

Klangschlange (Soundline)

What if instead of just waiting in line, the line could be an experience in itself?









As crowds, performers and glowing orbs converge, the unsuspecting have the opportunity to turn into co-creators of their own entertainment. Klangschlange is a participatory, flash performance that ignites the imagination of waiting crowds and queues. This turns an “error” into an opportunity for play and exploration.


Klangschlange keeps audiences intrigued through interaction with familiar forms in unconventional ways; using sound as an agent for connection. Inclusivity and musical improvisation facilitates social play and speculates on the future of entertainment.

Over the five nights of the Ars Electronica Festival, Klangschlange performers activated crowds and queues of people by flash dance performances. The performers used objects (orbs) and movement to control an audio visual (AV) output. An invitation was extended to the crowd to engage and interact with these objects. The actions of the participants directly influenced the soundscape, resulting in a spontaneous collaborative performance.


Project Manager: Patrick Cenita | Technical Leads: Murray King | Design and Fabrication: James Dwyer, Tom Long | Music: Andy Ward, Romain Quessaud 

Fashion Design: Kathryn Harvey | Choreographic Leads: Alexa Dewar, Matilda Skelhorn | Dancers/Co-creators: Erin O’Rourke, Reina Taekuchi, Morgan Hill, Jayden Grogan

Documentation: Cassidy Cloupet | Interaction Design: William Richardson-Davis, Rani Shanks, Cassidy Cloupet | Presentation: Tom Long


The following projects were developed as part of the academy journey. Due to the scope, scale or other challenges, these projects did not progress. However the core values of these projects were enfolded into what became the final three presented works.


Common Ground

Discover an exciting call to adventure, developing deeper relationships through a shared immersive interactive experience.

The Habitus project was pitched as a speculative organisation promoting social connection within a community. The members of the project act as Habitus Staff throughout the experience, to convey the idea that they are a company.

The Habitus Group is a sociotech, trans-dimensional, organisation that focuses on providing experiences for the exploration of human connection.

Common Ground is a specialised experience developed by The Habitus Group to create strong social connections within a community. It has been informed by the emotive nuances of human experience, including memory, co-existence and the contemporary plea to combat loneliness in a world defined by a heightened over-reliance on digital communication.

The physical presentation of Common Ground is as a clinic where participants can download themselves into the experience and be benefited by the challenging social game they encounter within.


Common Ground is informed by the emotive nuances of human experience, and the contemporary plea to combat loneliness in a world defined by our heightened use of technological communication.  Marar surmises, “Now more than any other time in human history, the hope to find deep and mutual understanding through intimacy with another person is a dominant ambition that permeates the whole of our culture” (Marar, 2012).

Contemporary technology has limited our meaningful sensory and physical connections which are essential for psychological survival (Sreenivasen, Devlin, Smee, Weinberger & Garrick, 2016). Common Ground is a social “technological” reaction for the need to co-create new ways of being and co-existing in the experiential world. Memory has been identified as the shaper of human experience. Sound, keepsakes and conspiratorial components in Common Ground are triggers for future recollection processes. These processes are how participants will begin to implement more in-depth communication within their communities.

Gamification is utilised as a social technology in Common Ground. The Octalysis gamification system provides an excellent framework for targeting motivation and engagement, which creates a compelling call to action to ensure participant engagement. The tongue-in-cheek social technology created by The Habitus Group is inspired by John Lasseter, “The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art” (Serrat, 2017).


Participants will complete simple communal activities within the narrative guise of being medically examined by Habitus staff (i.e. sight, speech, muscle tightness, reflexes, problem solving).

Play Centre
Participants will be required to respond to cues given by performers acting as Staff, to complete further advanced communal challenges. These challenges are within the narrative guise of assisting Habitus staff to clean the room after a wild trans-dimensional gathering. Upon completion of this level, Staff from the Habitus Examination Clinic will appear and reveal that this exercise was a fabricated experience and that participants have passed psychological testing.

Black Challenge
Upon successful completion of the Play Centre participants will be given a key to the Black Challenge. Entrance to the challenge is hidden and must located independently. The participants are “locked” in a room with a new set of challenges, which if they fail the space is reset, giving the participants a second life. A third life will not be granted.

Hall of memories
This final level is a debrief before the completion of the game. Participants can create a reflective video capturing their experience of playing Common Ground, which is added to The Habitus Group database. This can viewed on an interactive media screen outside of the Habitus world.

Creative Lead: Merryn Trescott  | Technical: Salvatore Fazio | Actor: Oscar Connor, Tobias George | Design: Amy Campbell, El Tapi



The Night Before The Morning After was pitched as a dual installation that uses Disco and the ensuing Hangover to play with disruption and error in human memory.

We form memories through sensory experience. It is this sensory experience that cues our desire to remembe
r. Memory is “the ability to remember past experiences, and the power or process of recalling to mind previously learned facts, experiences, impressions, skills and habits.” Memory is not simply made up of individual senses, but rather our attempt at understanding them. The dual installation is situated at two moments in time: The first installation is The Disco, activated at the time of the event, and the second installation, The Hangover,  is only accessible the morning after. The first captures you in the event, and the second represents that time via the idea of memory. The two installations act as an exploration into the notion of errors that can occur between the two time periods.

This project plays with the qualities of memory and recollection by using two installations separated by space and time. We explore the fragility and limitations of human recollection by playing with how technology can blur the lines between performer, the act of performance and the audience. Both iterations of the work use identical data but alter the context in which it creates, presents and is received by the performer and audience.


The Disco encourages movement and captures the motion data, visually presenting it with an emphasis on sensory experience, outputting a stimulating and reactive display of colours and patterns.

The Hangover replays the data in a visual display of blurred and false recollections based on the movement recorded from inside The Disco the previous evening. This iteration uses small sections of The Disco data set to generate an interactive work that represents only small sections of the night before.

This installation uses Kinect sensors to capture and record participant’s movements in The Disco. The data is visualised through Open Sound Control (OSC) software, and the results are projection mapped back into the installation. Additionally this data set is edited and deconstructed to play-back and re-interpret the experience in a new light; allowing the The Hangover to be a constructed fragmented memory of the previous night’s events.

Music: Andy Ward, Romain Quessaud | Technical Advisor: Murray King | Drama: Lily Daoud | Dance Performance: Jayden Grogan, Alexa Dewar

Technical Production: Steph Grima


Sound Consensus

How can non-musicians experience the act of jamming and group flow? Sound Consensus aims to remove the entry barriers for creating sound by facilitating discovery through play and exploration.

Sound Consensus was pitched as a participatory, performative installation that facilitates group collaboration. Through the use of technology and sound as an agent for connection, participants are encouraged to playfully explore unspoken communication. Sound Consensus aims to enable the experience of creative Flow and connectivity through bodily interactions with individual tangible media objects known as orbs.


The installation consists of a collection of interactive orbs that generate sounds, light and haptic feedback. The idea is to create unique soundscapes through collective group engagement. Each individual orb adapts to the user’s unique gestural input, producing sound, light and vibrations. Additionally the data-sets generated from these activities culminate to create a larger soundscape influenced by the relative proximity of the orbs to one another.

The concept emerged from thinking, exploring and experimenting with the processes of music making, and how we can facilitate inclusive collaboration regardless of the technical skills needed. Sound Consensus aims to remove the entry barriers for creating sound by facilitating discovery through play and exploration.


Project Manager: Patrick Cenita | Design and Fabrication: James Dwyer | Fashion Design: Kathryn Harvey | Dance: Morgan Hill | Interaction Design: William Richardson-Davis, Cassidy Cloupet, Steven O’Hanlon-Rose


Emotional Truth

Emotional truth was pitched as a speculative, interactive work that seeks to begin the conversation of how new technologies could facilitate non-verbal communication and provide opportunities to connect with those around us on a deeper level.

Humans are fallible creatures and in our everyday interactions it is easy for us to make errors and misconstrue how others are feeling. As technology continues to advance, are new opportunities to create deeper and more meaningful connections emerging?

Given that language and communication can be fraught with room for error, our team contemplated: could it be commonplace, in the future, for a responsive system to exist that identifies and visualises the emotional state of those around us? Emotional Truth seeks to explore just that.



The speculative technology proposed in this project would first analyse and then visualise the emotions of each person engaged in conversation. This personalised visualisation would follow its owner as they move throughout the installation space, creating a dynamic and performative experience. Through this revealing visualisation the emotional state of each person can be read and understood by others in the installation space. The intention of this project is to enable us to both understand and connect on a deeper level. By going beyond just verbal communication, which isn’t always a reflection of one’s true feelings, Emotional Truth seeks to support inter-personal connection in the era of loneliness.


The visualisation of each participant’s emotional data would manifest as a silhouette of colour and motion. This visual pallet both represents and communicates each participant’s feelings. The installation environment would be a fully immersive space with walls that present the various colours, shapes and movement.

As audience members walk into the room the walls link to each person, and a light pallet to match their height, proximity, and most important, how they are feeling. Ultimately the installation is an interactive space that seeks to assist us in communicating and exploring emotional feelings.

Animation and Game Design: Thomas Stig | Film: Nicholas Dunning | Interaction Design: Rani Shanks | Industrial Design: Thomas Long


Connection Pending

Participants are invited to explore a space where connection can feel immersive. Connection Pending was pitched as an interactive, performative installation that hopes to engage individuals in the action of ‘eye gazing’ to strengthen their connections to each other.

The experience of loneliness occurs when our social interactions are potentially not meeting our expectations. Loneliness is an epidemic of the 21st century. The gradual growth of emotional loneliness has increased with technology. This leads to the questions, how does long-term dissatisfaction with our social interactions affect our mental and physical well-being? and consequently, what are we missing?

The Connection Pending project used the amalgamation of three actions: thinking, doing and articulating. The project was an exploration into human connection. The challenge we faced was how to facilitate human connection using artistic modalities and technology. We were inspired by other projects and experiments that used ‘eye gazing’ as a form of connecting with one another. This sparked our interest and we devised a series of analogue experiments stemming from ‘eye gazing’ and connection.

This project is a direct response to our concern of ‘loneliness in the 21st Century’ and how might we, facilitate shared experiences that generate a sense of connection between participants?


The intention of the environment is to encourage the act of eye contact and eye gazing between friends and strangers. Through experiencing this interactive, performative installation festival goers will feel a deeper connection evoked through the action of eye gazing.


Two or six participants to be invited into the installation. Before they enter, goggles and headphones are provided. The goggles are constructed to restrict the users peripheral vision, allowing a more moderated experience. The headphones are connected to an FM Radio that plays pre-recorded instructions to assist the user to navigate the space. Pre-recorded prompts encourage users to engage with the practice of eye gazing with other participants in a multitude of ways. The entire space is filled with long strands of fabric suspended from the ceiling, designed to reduce the users depth of field, as a mechanism to enable micro spaces of engagement within the larger space. Additionally an interactive headband is worn that acts as a visual stimuli indicating when participants are either maintaining or breaking extended eye contact.  

Interaction Design: Jess Greentree | Dance Performance: Georgia Bradford, Matilda Skelhorn, Erin O’Rourke | Visual Arts: Reina Takeuchi

Animation & Game Design: Thomas Stig | Music: Jordan Yanus | Entertainment Industries: Ruth Hawkins



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Sreenivasan, S., D. Devlin, D.E. Smee, L.E. Weinberger, T. Garrick. (2016) Toxic Boomerang: The Effect of Psychiatric Diagnostic Labelling Upon the Labeler. In Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, 13(1), 33-42. Retrieved 22 Aug 2018, from

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