Playtime is Over
History Repeating

The New Vitruvians

[Taken on my O2 Cocoon, because my camera is broken, and it came out really well I think. See more pictures here.]

Last night I went to an art show thing in the incredible space that is the Imagination building, courtesy of the lovely, lovely people at Contagious.

The show was called The New Vitruvians [taken from Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man] and the artworks were all made of individual rubber balls, in effect large scale pixels, of a base colour that had then been shaded as necessary to create the images , as with the yellow face above. The balls are then suspended in a plastic base, held in place by pressure alone, and the effect is really rather beautiful.

The artist, Yazmany Arboleda, who works for Imagination in NYC, used his friends as studies, and printed up the balls using a '3D printer', something that arouses my inner geek.

As well as the printing of 3D objects, types of 3D printers can create physical objects by 'printing' successive layers on top of each other.  They're used for rapid prototyping, printing CAD files into reality.

But the really exciting stuff happens when you realise that 3D printing is the first step towards fabbers.

Fabbers, or digital fabricators, will radically change the e-commerce industry, in fact the the whole way in which we think about buying products. The vision is of a self contained factory that sits next to your PC, like a printer, but that make things from digital data. So instead of buying a thing, you buy a pattern, a blueprint, and fab it.

Jump forward to proposed nanfactories and we're well on the way to Star Trek style replicators, or Universal Fabricators at least, capable of making anything that can be made, including more fabbers.

Who knows what will happen to brands then - branded designs, brand name designers - but more immediately worth considering is the media corollary of this kind of technology.

In Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte, the former MIT professor of media proposes an idea he called Bitcasting. He foresees a time when the form in which content is consumed will be decided at the point of consumption.

An example, by way of illustration. The weather is bitcast - all the core data is contained in the transmission. Then, at the point of reception, I decide if I want to consume it as printed report, as  an audio stream, as video, as interactive simulation, and my computer dynamically generates the manifestation.

In a world of brandcasting then, what's the role for channel planning, creative execution, or indeed any aspects of the industry as they currently are?

All of which takes us a long way from The New Vitruvians, but then I guess the function of art, if it can be said to have one, is inspiration.