Interactive artist Zac Ong explores how wearable technology can help people negotiate interactions in the public space. One of a series of interviews brought to you by the Heineken Ideas Brewery.
PSFK spoke to Zac Ong, a recent graduate of LaSalle College of Arts Singapore, about his project Repel. nspired by Heineken’s new challenge to reinvent the Draught Beer Experience, PSFK.com has interviewed change-making creatives who are constantly reinventing the world around them. His work, which was borne out of the every day realities of crowded environments in Singapore, features wearable technology that warns its user when someone invades their personal space. We discussed the inspiration for this project and his interest in creating interactive art that creates public awareness about issues.
How did the idea for Repel (an item of interactive clothing that repels people) come about?
The inspiration for Repel came from the current crowded environment in Singapore. In Singapore, everyday people are squeezing into a subway, elevator, and public transport. Since Singapore is a very small country with a large population, overcrowding is very common. It’s so common that we adopt into our routine. People become busy with their everyday life and tend to neglect this, so with Repel, I intended to bring up this issue and hopefully raise public awareness.
With Repel, what did you want to explore in human-to-human relationships?
It’s a very common situation where people feel stress, uncomfortable and unsecure when strangers invade their personal space. But in many situations it’s kind of awkward to voice this, and sometimes the situation just doesn’t allow it, especially in a packed subway where everybody is rushing to work. Repel serves as your feeling indicator so the stranger will get the message without the need of the user to express his/her feelings verbally. There is a lot of interactive artwork out there that aims to improve human-to-human relationships by pulling people together, but for Repel, it’s kind of a different story. I intend to create a so-called “comfort gap” among people. Judging from the situation here, I guess that makes the most sense.
How do you believe technology is affecting these relationships?
The technology actually does a really good job in achieving the repel effect for me in this project. Repel is a prototyping idea, and it’s powered by an Arduino board and a few other electronic components such as DC motors, Servo motors, LED light, laser and some buttons. These technologies express the feeling of the user (telling the stranger stay away from the user’s personal zone).
Describe how your interactive clothing, wearable, art, interface design, and installations seeks to reinvent how people interact and see the world?
Every time that I’m creating artwork, I think how the direction can give the audience a physical interaction and experience with it instead of admiring it from a distance. To many people, interactive to them is looking at computer, scrolling the mobile phone or talking to the computer. But to me, I guess interaction is something that requires a big interactive action, like jumping, touching, speaking and response to something. In creating any art piece, I like to let the audiences participate and let them to explore the meaning behind the work themselves. I hope that they will find their own opinion and view through the interaction with my art.
What projects are you currently working on?
Currently I’m working on a project, which will be based on human memory and time. For now, the project is still in the brainstorming stage, but the end result is going to be an art installation. This project is going to link the secret power of time and the beautiful moments that we may have missed in our life.
How do you envision the future of interactive design?
Interactive design is getting more popular now, there are more and more media artworks being exhibiting all around the world. Also, people are starting to appreciate and become curious about interactive design. A few years back, especially in Asian countries, interactive design to most people was just screen-based (websites and some flash gaming). But interactive design started to expand into different forms such as installations, sculpture, sound art, fashion and programming visuals. I think the future of interactive design will be a vast variety. It will be adopted in various fields, such as entertainment, cosmetic, and mobile platform. Overall, it will be a competitive field because every industry will make interactive design as an important element of their products.
About Heineken’s Challenge To Reinvent The Draught Beer Experience
In a rather audacious move, Heineken are asking people from certain countries around the world to come up with new ideas tied to the draught beer experience. Over at the Heineken Ideas Brewery site, creative minds can offer a new vision to the drinks company.
Heineken say that draught beer is enjoyed the world-over, but it has not changed much over the years and Heineken sees the potential to take inspiration from technological advances and the development of other industries to create an exciting new era in draught beer.
Submit your new draught experience concepts at Heineken Ideas Brewery.