Terrarium, A Sonic Experience Dreamscape


Amsterdam-based interaction designers Theodore Watson and Emily Gobeille created this stunning interactive installation back in 2008, but it’s still worth posting it. Terrarium is an electronic dreamscape that listens to the visitor’s voice. This leads to a dynamic experience of an almost perfect and super neat underwater world. The participants are drawn into a new created world of fantasy that they can influence. On Vimeo, Watson explains how it all works.

“Terrarium is an interactive, sonic ecosystem whose source of energy comes from the sounds people make interacting with the work. The sounds of the participants voices come into the world via the sound vents. These sounds are too raw for the environment so they are sucked in by the Seed Spitters who process the sounds to more manageable particles which are then expelled into the environment. These processed sound particles help spawn and sustain life within the ecosystem, providing food for the fish in the water and creating frequency sensitive plants on the land. The voice also triggers changes to the Pattern Bush who adapts the shapes of its leaves to the sounds it hears.”

I’m sure Salvador Dali would have been happy to experience this rather surrealistic work. It is the creation of an imaginative world in light as Dali did with oil paint on canvas. Besides the technique being used, very interesting is the creation of a world that can be discovered in multiple layers of understanding and fantasy. It triggers inspiration for both interior and city design. One of the commenters on Vimeo says: “It’d be awesome to have a gigantic maze/labyrinth constructed that has different versions of this projected in different hidden spaces… it’d be like walking through a forest, discovering niches (rather than walking in front of one).”

The interesting question is: would this be the future of the city’s public spaces? For now this is art, but soon enough we might experience interactive landscapes in shopping malls and city centers. What role will imaginative worlds play in future commercial domains? Could this lead people by beauty, curiosity and their drive to experience? Can one digitally activate people to buy or at least to enter a commercial zone by creating another state of mind? Or starting from a non-commercial and more individual perspective: will we soon experience a new digital nature, as Koert van Mensvoort predicts on Next Nature? Well, we’ll see. But anyway, have a look at the pretty video below.