The Idea Vault

The New York Times

"The Idea Vault" is an immersive installation designed to raise awareness about the Verizon Innovative Learning platform

New York, NY, USA


/01 Context

  • Strategy
  • Design
  • Installation

People were given the opportunity to walk in this 10 feet-high inside-out mirrored-dome, and to be fully immersed in a forest of software-driven and animated rgb-led lights. Each interaction of both the visitors’ movements and of them touching the screen at the center of the dome, would trigger different LED choreographies and custom-made spatial audio sequences.

/02 The cause

It all started with a great program

To build a great story, all it takes is a hero, a journey, and a cause. We first got introduced to the great Verizon Innovative Learning Program by the New York Times team. Since 2012, and In order to improve science, technology, engineering and math proficiency, Verizon Innovative Learning (or VIL) has provided access to hardware, connectivity and curriculum to under-resourced schools. From teacher to student, student to community, generation to generation, Verizon Innovative Learning helps prepare kids not only to participate in, but to shape, the future.

/03 The concept

Building a journey

We knew we had to imagine a visitor journey which was inviting, self explanatory, and powerful at the same time so the visitors of the Times Talk, could experience something emotionally strong and engaging in a limited amount of time, and without any intervention from our side. Quickly, the idea of building a 10 feet-high inside-out mirrored-dome, and to be fully immersed in a forest of software-driven and animated rgb-led lights popped up as being the perfect starting point.

Our challenge lied on several levels: make sure the experience inside is easy to understand, but also rewarding for visitors. That’s why we imagined a visitor experience divided in several steps: from getting inside the dome and being invited to move forward by a single soothing and slowly blinking led light, to interacting with a touchscreen located at the back, all the while being immersed with an infinity of IR-camera triggered reflected led light and a custom-made spatial sound engineering. Wow, that was a long sentence.

We prototyped that journey, tested in a closed environment, and build that experience layer after layer. Exactly like the emotional cake of delight we hope it would be (don’t quote us on this, please).

/04 On-screen experience

Building on screen

Once inside the dome, visitors would be invited to walk towards the touchscreen located at the very end, and each interaction with the screen, would not only trigger sound events, different layers of music, but also a totally different LED animation, as a support to the infographics displayed on the screen, the statistics, or the videos. That interface, built in canvas 2D, would communicate with the electronics through a set of….you know what? It’s boring tech details. Let’s just say the screen piloted the LED lights.

/05 Testing phase

Full-size prototyping

What followed was 10 intense days of repeated testing, climbing, tweaking, plugging, unplugging, measuring, climbing again, somehow eating and drinking in between, at the Chateau Brooklyn fabrication shop, and surrounded by an amazing team of badass and totally driven individuals. Most of the installation came together at that moment, and the visitor journey, LED animations, and even sound design got improved ten times over from relentless testing with an open mind. Worst part of it? We had to fully dismantle it once it was fully operational.

/06 The grand finale

Aaaaand building it back again

You know what followed, right? We all went on location, rebuilt that dome, made sure everything was perfect and started to test again, and again, and again ( and again?), finally took out the protective film off the acrylic panels and started the big clean-up…repeatedly as acrylic is a really electrostatic surface. The rest is history. People came to the event, came inside the dome and got introduced to the Verizon Innovative Learning program through this multi-sensorial and ephemeral installation. We even heard some minds were blown. Mission accomplished.

/07 Outcomes

Our two cents for the planet

The entire installation has been dismantled after the event, but all the bits and pieces have been stored to be re-used and reallocated to potentially other projects, enabling us to do a little gesture for the planet, and therefore sticking to the values attached to this project. So long, space cowboy!

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