by Anneli Rufus
The future of digital media was revealed at the fourth annual >play conference at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business last Saturday.
Panelists and speakers included Twitter cofounder Biz Stone, Microsoft Game Studios former VP Shane Kim, DeviantART CEO Angelo Sotira, and former Sony Pictures Digital president Yair Landau. The conference's theme was "Disruption," so it celebrated the ways in which new technologies and forms of networking continue to disrupt (aka destroy, but in a good way) standard manners of doing things. Revolutionary disruptions provide instant, unprecedented access to just about everything, the speakers agreed: With Flickr, everyone's a photojournalist. With Twitter, breaking news spreads fast, even if that breaking news is about a cheese sandwich that Emily just ate in Rohnert Park.
Among the innovative (and disruptive) new products demonstrated at the conference were the "reactable," a musical synthesizer with a unique user interface that allows anyone to create complex rhythmic and melodic compositions and soundscapes simply by arranging any number of tiles and blocks on a specially designed glowing tabletop that responds to the location and movement of the shapes placed on it. The interface is so intuitive that beginners with no training can compose lush instrumentations and pulsating dance tracks in under a minute. So far only a handful of reactable prototypes have been built, one of which is used by Björk during live concerts. Inventor Sergi Jordà of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona told conferencegoers that he and his colleagues plan to begin manufacturing reactables and selling them commercially soon.
Shapeways, a new technology company in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, produces unique plastic and nylon objects based on user-submitted 3D designs at very low cost. Customers can create any 3D design using any standard software and submit it to Shapeways, which then creates a real-world physical version of it using innovative manufacturing techniques, at a tiny fraction of the cost of traditional prototypes. Any idea, design, or shape you can create on a computer can be made real and delivered to your door in a matter of days for just a few dollars.
In this hellish economy, business students need something to hope for, and the numbers mentioned at the conference were pretty encouraging. DeviantART, which is now the world's largest online artists' community, generates 1.4 million comments a day and gets 25 million visits a month. Flicker gets 60 million. Launched this week, Landau's new project, Mass Animation, is a global collaborative comprising amateurs and professionals working together to create an animated short that will be screened in actual theaters after it's completed.