IoT and the Arts: Galleries and smart sculptures

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Does the IoT have a place in the Arts? While its efforts at music composition are raising a few eyebrows, the IoT does appear to be making its way more successfully into galleries and museums – not only in the form of smart sculptures and other works of art – but in the operations arena too.

Smart sculptures

This week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona a large sculpture is on show, created by architectural designers in collaboration with the Watson IoT platform. The First Thinking Sculpture, as it’s been dubbed, was fed images, song, lyrics and articles about Gaudi and Barcelona. It then used that information to choose the elements (shapes, colours and so on) that made up its own design. It is also equipped with Watson Tone Analyser so that it can change colour in real-time as it reacts to new information.

Despite its name, the First Thinking Sculpture isn’t the only belle of the ball where smart art is concerned. The San Jose International Airport, for example, boasts a permanent art work, eCLOUD, whose polycarbonate tiles fade from transparent to opaque states as they receive and react to real-time weather data. The data turns individual tiles on and off to create an ever-changing pattern.

Another similar project is LightBridge, by Susanne Seitinger, a researcher at MIT, and Pol Pla, a grad student in Media Arts and Sciences. The LightBridge, installed on the Harvard bridge, comprises a 10,000 pixel display activated by proximity sensors, camera, mobile phones and buttons.

Enhancing exhibitions with technology

So much for smart artworks. But what about the galleries themselves? Can the IoT offer an enhanced experience to gallery visitors? Apparently, yes. It can also help with the day-to-day operations, and protect valuable works of art by helping to maintain the optimum physical environment to house them. Here’s how:

Smart labels

Some visitors prefer to let pieces of art speak for themselves, unencumbered by lengthy information that might predispose them to a certain point of view. Me, I’m an ignoramus, and need a little background. A smart label next to a piece would allow those who want more information to scan the label and pull up a profile about the artist and their work.

Wireless beacons

Wireless beacons can provide information remotely to visitors via a dedicated app. They can also track visitor movement – useful for security purposes, or simply to show how the space is being used.

Sales platform

Fancy buying a piece but someone’s got there first? A digital sales platform linked to each piece’s web profile could suggest prints, merchandise and other works by the same artist available for purchase. And it would do away with the gift shop exit ambush beloved by museums the world over.

Light and temperature control

Smart lighting and temperature control could adjust the physical environment of a particular room as the need arose. Sensors detecting changes in humidity, temperature or light would trigger a response to protect the sensitive pieces – automatically turning the heat up or down or dimming the lights.

Let us know your thoughts

Do you have ideas about how the IoT and the Arts could work together? Let us know in the comments below.

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