This website is now archived. To find out what BERG did next, go to

Blog posts tagged as 'video'

Some pictures, moving and still, for the Easter Weekend

It’s Easter break in the UK – a pair of public holidays on Friday and Monday that give us a long weekend – and so we’re off for a few days. To send you on your way: some pictures and films, presented with citation and links, but without comment. Have a happy Easter.





Eyke Volkmer’s SF covers, via but does it float.

Huge David Lynch Head Sculpture by Jamie Salmon, via Dangerous Minds.

The work of Julian Vallée, via ISO50

Nilgun Kara’s photography (via Mappeal)

ENIGMATICA via Brandon

A Turing Machine


Timo Arnall has been working with us in the studio this week.

He made this. It’s super lovely.

Bigger here. Thank you Timo!

Mag+, a concept video on the future of digital magazines

I’ve got something I want to share with you.

We’ve been working with our friends at Bonnier R&D exploring the future of digital magazines. Bonnier publish Popular Science and many other titles.

Magazines have articles you can curl up with and lose yourself in, and luscious photography that draws the eye. And they’re so easy and enjoyable to read. Can we marry what’s best about magazines with the always connected, portable tablet e-readers sure to arrive in 2010?

This video prototype shows the take of the Mag+ project.

You can see this same video bigger on Vimeo.

The articles run in scrolls, not pages, and are placed side-to-side in kind of mountain range (as we call it internally). Magazines still arrive in issues: people like the sense of completion at the end of each.

Mag+ in landscape

You flip through by shifting focus. Tap the pictures on the left of the screen to flip through the mag, tap text on the right to dive in.

Bedside manner

It is, we hope, like stepping into a space for quiet reading. It’s pleasant to have an uncluttered space. Let the Web be the Web. But you can heat up the words and pics to share, comment, and to dig into supplementary material.

Heated Mode

The design has an eye to how paper magazines can re-use their editorial work without having to drastically change their workflow or add new teams. Maybe if the form is clear enough then every mag, no matter how niche, can look gorgeous, be super easy to understand, and have a great reading experience. We hope so. That gets tested in the next stage, and rolled into everything learned from this, and feedback from the world at large! Join the discussion at the Bonnier R&D Beta Lab.

Recently there have been digital magazine prototypes by Sports Illustrated, and by Wired. It’s fascinating to see the best features of all of these.

Many teams at Bonnier have been involved in Mag+. This is a synthesis of so much work, research, and ideas. But I want to say in particular it’s a pleasure to collaborate with our friends at R&D. And here at BERG let me call out some specific credits: Jack Schulze, Matt Jones, Campbell Orme and Timo Arnall. Thanks all!

Treemap ToC

(See also Bonnier R&D’s Mag+ page, where you can leave comments and contact Bonnier, and the thoughts of Kicker Studio — who will be expanding the concept to robust prototype over the next few months in San Francisco! BERG’s attention has now moved to the social and wider services around Mag+ – we’ll be mapping those out and concepting – and we’re looking forward to working with all the teams into 2010. Awesome.)

The ghost in the field

basic field mapping animation

This image is a photographic mapping of the readable volume of a radio field from an RFID reader. The black component in the image is an RFID reader, similar to the component inside the yellow part of the oyster card reader. The camera has been fixed in its position and the reader photographed. Using a tag connected to an LED we paint in the edges of the readable volume with a long exposure and animate them to show the form.

Following Nearness, the chain reaction film, is Immaterials: The ghost in the field, our next film with Timo Arnall at the Touch project. There are 4 billion RFID tags in the world. They may soon outnumber the people. Readers and tags are increasingly embedded in the things and environments in which we live. How do readers see tags? When we imagine RFID and their invisible radio fields, what should we see? Immaterials explains the experiments we have performed to see RFID as it sees itself.

There is a power to be found in understanding everything from systems, to APIs, to components, to data, through to their enveloping materials (such as plastics and metals) as substrates to interfere with, bend and test. Through this we form complete wholes that make a common cultural sense to people, as products. The common category that contains services, APIs, plastics, componentry and their manufacturing processes is their behaviours and their consistencies, their immateriality.

We need to richly understand the behaviour and nature of the tag interaction with readers. Timo summarises:

It is incredible how often RFID is seen as a long-range ‘detector’ or how little relevant information is contained in technical data-sheets. When this information is the primary material that we are working with as designers, this is highly problematic. By doing these kind of experiments we can re-frame the technology according to our experience of it, and generate our own material knowledge.

There is a sequence in the video where I briefly discuss the directionality of tags. Most tags (and therefore their antenna) are flat. They have a direction. The shape of the readable volume changes according to the antennas orientation to the reader. The following image shows two volumes. The first visualised with green LEDs shows the readable volume from interactions between a reader and a tag parallel to it;  the second, visualised with red LEDs, shows the volume produced by the same tag held perpendicular. Two very distinctive and different shapes can clearly be seen.

parallel and perpendicular mapping

It is not the radio field produced by the reader itself we are looking at. That is much, much larger. The images show the volume in which the energy in the space surrounding the reader is inducing a current large enough to wake and run the RFID chip at the end of the antenna in the tag. The readable volume can be mapped around a tag or inside the field produced by a reader component, but it only exists between the two.

Having produced these visualisations, I now find myself mapping imaginary shapes to the radio enabled objects around me. I see the yellow Oyster readers with plumes of LED fluoro-green fungal blossoms hanging over them – and my Oyster card jumping between them, like a digital bee cross-pollenating with data as I travel the city.

We work with traditional materials and fabrication for our product and industrial design, but the exciting contemporary products of our age are more than the sum of their materials, those poorly bound knots of plastic and silicon in our hands and homes.

Matt Jones described what we do as ‘Post Industrial Design.’ Perfect! Where once industrial design was concerned with radii, form, and finish, we now deal in behaviours, experience, shifting context, and time.

The products we design now are made with new stuffs. Service layers, video, animation, subscription models, customisation, interface, software, behaviours, places, radio, data, APIs and connectivity are amongst the immaterials for modern products.

Immaterials are the new substrates for opportunity and risk in product design.

Next week, Immaterials: Unravelling the antennae.


Last week Timo and I finished filming and editing Nearness. Earlier in the year BERG was commissioned by AHO/Touch to produce a series of explorations into designerly applications for RFID (more to come on what that means). Over the coming weeks BERG will be sharing the results of the work here and on the Touch blog.

The film Nearness explores interacting without touching. With RFID it’s proximity that matters, and actual contact isn’t necessary. Much of Timo’s work in the Touch project addresses the fictions and speculations in the technology. Here we play with the problems of invisibility and the magic of being close.

The work refers fondly to the Fischli and Weiss The Way Things Go film and its controversial offspring The Honda ‘Cog’ commercial. There are of course any number of awesome feats of domestic engineering on YouTube. Japanese culture has taken the form to its heart. My favourite examples are the bumpers in the kids science show Pythagora Switch. Here’s a clip.

Our twist is that the paired objects do not hit or knock, they touch without touching.

“Preparing Us For AR”: the value of illustrating of future technologies

When I wrote about Text In The World over on my personal blog a few weeks ago, our colleague Matt Jones left a comment:

“preparing us for AR” (augmented reality)

And this got me thinking about the ways that design and media can educate us about what future technologies might be like, or prepare us for large paradigm shifts. What sort of products really are “preparing” us for Augmented Reality?

A lot of consumer-facing the output of Augmented Reality at the moment tends to focus on combining webcams with specifically marked objects; Julian Oliver’s levelHead is one of the best-known examples:

But when AR really hits, it’s going to be because the technology it’s presented through has become much more advanced; it won’t just be webcams and monitors, but embedded in smart displays, or glasses, or even the smart contact lenses of Warren Ellis’ Clatter.

So whilst it’s interesting to play with the version of the technology we have today, there’s a lot of value to be gained from imagining what the design of fully-working AR systems might look like, unfettered by current day technological constraints. And we can do that really well in things like videos, toys, and games.

Here’s a lovely video from friend and colleague of Schulze & Webb, Timo Arnall:

Timo’s video imagines using an AR map in an urban environment. I particularly like how he emphasises that there are few limitations on scale when it comes to projecting AR – and the most convenient size for certain applications might be “as big as you can make it”. Hence projecting the map across the entire pavement.

Here’s another nice example: the Nearest Tube application for the iPhone 3GS:

This is perhaps a more exciting interpretation of what AR could be, and what AR devices might be (not to mention a working, real-world example): the iPhone becomes a magic viewfinder on the world, a Subtle Knife that can cut through dimensions to show us the information layer sitting on top of the world. It helps that it’s both useful and pretty, too.

Games are a great way of getting ready for the interfaces technologies like AR afford. Here’s a clip I put together from EA Redwood Shores’ Dead Space, illustrating the game UI:

Dead Space has no game HUD; rather, the HUD is projected into the environment of the game as a manifestation of the UI of the hero’s protective suit. It means the environment can be designed as a realistic, functional spaceship, and then all the elements necessary for a game – readouts, inventories, not to mention guidelines as to what doors are locked or unlocked – can be manifested as overlay. It’s a striking way to place all the game’s UI into the world, but it’s also a great interpretation of what futuristic, AR user interfaces might be a bit like.

Finally, a toy that never fails to make me smile – the Tuttuki Bako:

This is Matt Jones playing with a Tuttuki Bako in our studio. You place your finger into the hole in the box, and then use it to control a digital version of your finger on screen in a variety of games. It’s somewhat uncanny to watch, but serves as a great example of a somewhat different approach to augmented realities – the idea that our bodies could act as digital prosthetics.

All these examples show different ways of exploring an impending, future technology. Whilst much of the existing, tangible work in the AR space is incremental, building upon available technology, it’s likely that the real advances in it will be from technology we cannot yet conceive. Given that, it makes sense to also consider concepting from a purely hypothetical design perspective – trying things out unfettered by technological limitations. The technology will, after all, one day catch up.

What’s exciting is that this concept and design work is not always to be found in the work of design studios or technologists; it also appears in software, toys, and games that are readily consumable. In their own way, they are perhaps doing a better job of educating the wider world about AR (or other new technologies) than innumerable tech demos with white boxes.

What if GPS worked like Here & There?

You get used to the Here & There projection really fast. Timo Arnall, friend of S&W, was talking to Jack:

I’ve been sitting here staring at the map, pretty much on and off since yesterday. It comes across as a totally natural projection! … it’s as if you have wired two separate bits of my brain together; the bit that does maps, and the bit that does perspective.

Here’s a comparison:


Thanks Chris Woebken for the photo!

It starts feeling weird that you can’t see over rooftops.

And while these prints we’ve shown so far are tied to two intersections (one looking from 3rd and 7th, and the other from 3rd and 35th), yes we are working on doing it on the fly, and yes we’re looking at generating projections from all kinds of places for one-off prints.

The natural question is, what would this look like driving round Manhattan? (If you forget about the traffic.) As Fast Company and Gizmodo said, Garmin should do it. They totally should. And so here it is.

The Here & There projection is on the left, and the equivalent normal view is on the right. Click through and watch the HD version. It’s cool.

There’s another video too, that shows how the streets distort to make the projection possible.

Here’s what I’d like for my future magic in-car navigation system:

  • the superpower to see through the city into the distance
  • real-time!
  • traffic volume overlaid on the distant city map, with my route
  • a way to peek around corners
  • seeing further the faster my car is going

Any more?

Hello vod:pod

vod:pod is the newest video sharing and aggregator site on the block, and it has a few twists. Three of them:

First, the primary focus is a video collection (a pod) rather than a single one. Collecting can be done by individuals or together. So, for example, here are 4 people collecting indie music. You can scrub over the videos for a rank and rating preview before watching, and the sparkline at the top right gives you an idea of the popularity of the pod.

Second, VodPod lets you upload videos but doesn’t ask for an exclusive relationship. It reaches out into the Web–you can include videos from YouTube, Google Video, and so on in your pod, and keep all of them collected alongside your own ones. These highlighted pods all mix-and-match from different service.

Last is something Mark Hall just told me about: Each video has a low-threshold response widget next to it, so you can say quickly that you loved, just watched, or laughed at what you saw. If you add your Twitter details in your vod:pod profile, that response will also be announced to your Twitter buddies. Simple, social and (importantly) deliberate every time.

There’s a lot more to come – really big features – but I’ll leave it there.

vod:pod is the first service I’ve watched all the way from early concept through to launch. S&W did some very early product ideation and experience work – on how people find videos to watch online, as Mark discusses – and I’ve been following progress since. While the shape of the solution has changed considerably, the core values have been maintained: Organising, socialising, and being part of the Web.

I find that promising, and so vod:pod‘s what we use to host videos for this blog.

Celebration of function

This post is going to be about objects that celebrate their functions. This was an area of research for me during my time at the Royal College of Art. I’m going to follow on from Matt’s post on Disco and intrinsic activities. More show than tell here I think.

Here is my favourite piece of video right now. It is from the film 9 and a Half Weeks (via James Auger), and if you can wade your way through Rourke and Basinger power bonking their way around Manhattan you see this tape deck in his apartment. I’ve looped the video a couple of times and slowed it so you can see clearly.

I’m pretty sure it is a Nakamich RX tape deck. Using a system called UDAR (UniDirectional Auto Reverse) it mechanically flips the tape over at the end of each side. Something to do with aligning the heads. It is a fantastic piece of perfomance, and completely intrinsic to the nature and qualities of tape decks. Whatever it’s functional relevance might be, witnessing a mechanical operation so performative is excellent, the object is so discreetly joyful about what it is doing.

I also came across this video of a Red Raven records vinyl (via Alex Jarvis) on, along with some lovely research on vinyl video. It has two components. One is the vinyl, which has a large area of printed imagery on the larger than normal label; the second is a sixteen sided mirror which sits in the middle of your turn table and works like a zoetrope, reflecting the images on the vinyl as it turns and creating animation.

This a is beautiful response to the intrinsic qualities of vinyl and the mechanism of the record deck. More products should include this sort of wit and performative funtionality.

Recent Posts

Popular Tags