Creative Applications for Smart Glass

Project: Research

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Hong Kong’s iconic neon has been replaced by the sign of our times, the LED screen, resulting in the planet’s highest light pollution and subsequent wasted energy, environmental damage and physiological and psychological stress on the populace.Smart Glass is electronic film switchable between transparent and white. Safe, shatterproof, low energy and highly durable, it’s one of the emerging class of reactive materials becoming more commercially available yet under-explored for creative potential.A type of circuit, any image cut with Smart Glass must be contiguous: a stencil. This simple design tool originated in Asia and has founded creative technologies including painting, 3D design, print, illustration, photography, cinema, computers, copy machines and now nanotechnology. Foundational tools, followed as a type of DNA thread, may provide new insight into media archaeological scholarly research. In Art History, the brush and chisel get all the glory, but the lowly stencil preceded both.The stencil’s rich utility lies in formal properties that align with smart materials. Its structure is binary, made of bridges and gaps. Combining the switchable capabilities of Smart Glass with stencils laser cut into frames of animation, a moving image can traverse through physical space inverting the paradigm of most current technologies which present 3D images on 2D surfaces.Poetically, an animated stencil is sequenced light in physical form, like our vanished neon. This research provides creative possibilities to benefit urban environments by adapting media-archeological approaches to develop low-energy dimensional signature alternatives that are more integrated, sustainable and less visually invasive. However, the research also considers the repercussions of mediating a new material and how it is coopted.The methodology is structured as five stages, each building upon the previous. Starting from an archive and literature review, iterative design explorations are evaluated and expanded into prototypical displays. The expert panel’s reflected commentary will inform the development of a high-fidelity prototype. The images, videos, interviews, and prototypes will be edited for varied stakeholders including urban planning events, public exhibitions and academic journals.The design process is embedded in the feedback of interdisciplinary guidance. In addition to Hong Kong-based professionals and academics, three world-leading experts will add theoretical heft to researching the design tools to unleash potential for Smart Glass animation. Media archaeologist Errki Huhtamo, Art/Sci director Victoria Vesna and Nano physicist James Gimzewski have each offered to open their labs to contextualize the past, present and future of this new media. 


Project number9042895
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/20 → …