A new futuristic Human Media Lab, designed to inspire students through a creative and flexible workplace environment, opens next week. The lab serves as one big interactive playground, allowing students to hack and experiment with the architecture and space as a user interface.
Computing professor and Queen’s Human Media Lab director Roel Vertegaal collaborated on the laboratory’s design with New York-based Karim Rashid, who Time magazine calls “the most famous industrial designer in all the Americas.”
“We believe it is important to surround graduate students with great, inspirational room design. A stimulating room produces stimulating ideas. So we created the world’s first boutique laboratory,” says Dr. Vertegaal.
Laboratory and other work environments are notorious for being designed as functional, linear spaces that are not suitable for innovative thinking. Instead the new laboratory features space to think, a cantilevered table to collaborate around, and pods and offices for focus work. Walls and windows are flexible and curved, rather than straight and flat.
One of the laboratory’s main features is a 16-by-9 feet interactive flexible display with gesture technology as seen in the futuristic Tom Cruise film Minority Report. Users in front of the wall-sized display use in-air gestures to control the user interface by moving objects around the screen.
This may be the way people interact with future computers seamlessly integrated into their surrounding space. Eye trackers recognize when people in adjoining cubicles are looking at each other, automatically turning the translucent glass between them transparent for communication.
The laboratory was funded through a grant by Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ministry of Research and Innovation of Ontario.