In review: #06 playful interfaces

Play in its various forms has long been on the for Artful Spark and we’re glad we saved it for our first fixture at RichMix. What an evening!

High energy, humour, twinkling lights and honest words from four excellent speakers. Here follows a brief attempt to capture some of it.


“Hardware is so hot right now!”

Robin Baumgarten

A leading light in experimental hardware games, Robin got things going with a rundown of the conferences and communities (ALT.CTRL.GDC, AMAZE, Fantastic Arcade, Makerspace) fuelling his passion for quirky gameplay (from knives to door stoppers).

Ultimately, this all led him to install a double-helix Line Wobbler on a fake Christmas tree in King’s Cross station at 2AM. Robin also appears to be singlehandedly keeping Small Order Springs and Pressings Ltd in business; Line Wobbler, installed at the V&A’s Design/Play/Disrupt exhibition, is suffering at the hands of some surprisingly violent museum visitors and requires regular spring refurbishment!

“I literally shook hands with 10,000 people.”

Phoenix Perry

Hard to pin down and bursting with energy and ideas, Phoenix survived 90s Silicon Valley startup culture by the skin of her nerve-endings (no thanks to poorly designed Aeron chairs and Microsoft peripherals) She now runs the Playful Experiences MA at Goldsmiths.

Bot Party, the low-tech, high-fiving, hand-holding game of sounds and intimacy got everyone bouncing, but the impromptu all-female panel on the awful ergonomics of male-centric tech products stole the show.


“Interactive CD ROOOOOOMS!”

Daniel Hirschmann

Mixing it up with both big-money tech firms (yes, Google) and legendary small cultural organisations (yes, Watershed in Bristol) Daniel had the crowd whooping to a witty account of his journey into playful interfaces.

Having founded both Tech Will Save Us and Hirsch + Mann, Daniel’s passion is engaging all the senses. A kinetic sculpture, demo’d at Artful Spark and created for Google’s Pixel Phone launch, shows just how compelling the whirring of synchronised motors can be.

2016 Playable Cities winner “Stop, Smile, Stroll” was a successful concept but in practice, “not so much.” The big learn was how essential constraints are – work with your client towards a clearer brief, define an MVP, put that flag in the sand and iterate.

“The worst project I ever made.”

Tim Burrell-Saward

The nail in the coffin was finding two weeks of blood, sweat, tears and insurance fears in the skip just 24 hours after the project finished its run. The Twitter-controlled, import-grade robot arm installation – with comical code-name alluding to an idea that only an all-night adland coke binge could create – may have been his worst, but Tim gave a candid account and clearly learned a lot from the project. #1 – Don’t ignore the early alarm bells.

In contrast, his giant talking throne was a blast, Beasts of Balance is stocked in every Apple store in the world and he successfully harvested, soundtracked and 3D printed the magnetic radiation of Jupiter.

Give Tim a shout if you want help making mad ideas happen.

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