Excerpt from the domus China 035 interview by Brendan McGetrick. 
For the full interview please go to the /press section.

For the seventh instalment in the series, I spoke with John Dekron and Markus Schneider, the chief technology officer and chief executive officer of thismedia, a Berlin-based company that specializes in applying new media to architecture. Their company has projects in Europe, the US, and Asia, but recently became more deeply engaged in China. We talked about their recent work, the challenges of designing technologically advanced systems for technologically inexperienced users, and imagining media as a building material. 


BM: Let's talk a little bit about the AAmp project that you recently completed in Singapore. That is a combination of a high resolution commercial screen and a much lower resolution lighting and color element, so that would seem to cover a lot of what we've talking about. 

MS: Right, as you said, the principle of the AAmp is to have two resolution areas, where you have a high resolution screen, which is commercial, and you have a low res area that is part of a facade design that was developed by realities:united. 

JD: The project has different modes in which it can operate. The first and most common one is what we called the "direct mode". In direct mode, the commercial, high res screen displays advertisements in a loop and that is not our technology. That is just some technology that is spread all over Asia and the most important aspect of that is that it is totally safe and you make sure that if a company has paid for the advertisement time, their commercial is played. In this mode, the low res facade works through an analysis of the advertisement and creates displays that fit with the mood, with the color, with the speed and patterns of the high res screen. It tries to correspond to the content of the high res screen. So this means that nobody has to take care of the content of the low res facade, because it is following and amplifying the content of the high res screen. That also explains the meaning of the name: AAmp means "Architectural Amplifier". 

The second mode is used when companies that show high res advertisements allow their advertisements to be shown again for free but with an overlay of feedback from the low res facade. It's actually a technical trick where you can have patterns that are shown on the facade overlaid on the high res screen, then the building becomes more like a single shade. 

Then there is a third mode when there is no advertisement showing - that is supposed to be used especially late at night, let's say from one o'clock to two o'clock. In this mode, the system records some snippets of the advertisement material and transforms it into content. It replays material, cuts it together, it has face recognition and can morph faces into each other, and things like that - making nice patterns. It's more like a machine's work. 

MS: I'd like to add one thing: as John mentioned, the design of the low res LED area is derived by analyzing the commercial, high res screen. That means that there is a commercial nature to one part of the skin of the building, but the low res aspect kind of transforms this commercial aspect and brings the two elements together. What's really interesting is that the source material itself - the color and the dynamics of the advertisements themselves - control the modular effects that are imbedded in the application, so you have a new design derived from whatever the source material is. This is important, because the problem of many projects is that, once you have a system installed, what kind of content should be displayed? This is the early test of many projects. So, with AAmp, as long as there is content on the high res screen, the rest of the facade will react to what is going on there. 

This project is also a good example of our work as collaborators. We are not the inventors of the project itself: the concept of having the high res and low res areas was developed by realities:united, who were kind of supplementary to the building's architects. Our role was to develop a kind of software that basically realizes the whole concept as realities:united thought of it. This is a very specific project for us, where we just realized one essential part of the much larger project. 

BM: One thing that I think is interesting and potentially valuable about this project is that it takes these high res commercial screens which are more and more common in cities, especially in China, and it on one hand enhances them by creating a complimentary chromatic environment for them, but on the other hand it also somehow disarms them, so that you feel slightly less offended by this stupid screen showing car commercials over and over again. 

MS: Exactly. This is what we also think is the value of this project. I was surprised myself at how the low res screen almost dissolves the commercial until the ads are not so annoying anymore. The commercial aspect becomes part of the identity of the building but it doesn't feel like it is only attached to it. And of course this is also the challenge in programming, how to find an application that actually generates this kind of effect.

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