On my last day in Budapest, Anthony and I dropped in on Kitchen Budapest, a new digital art / prototyping / cool new stuff place, sponsored by Magyar Telecom.



via flickr

As I understand it, the company isn’t looking to Kibu as a source of new products– they don’t have to create X number of prototype cell phones or products per quarter– but instead as a source of inspiration, a place to see interesting things. Definitely nice work if you can get it!

The space isn’t huge, but it’s very pleasant, and has a nice buzz. It’s on Raday utca, which is one of the hipper neighborhoods in the city– sort of a paprika-dusted version of Williamsburg or SoMa– and the building itself is a grand old stone pile. Inside, it’s all open space and clean lines, but not antiseptic. They have a couple things that I hadn’t seen before, but would like to get for the Institute, or just for my own home office. The black paneling on the columns, for example, is pressed wood with a magnetic laminate: presto, floor-to-ceiling magnetic boards. Very handy.



via flickr

We had just enough time to see some demos of things they’re working on. Two of them completely blew me away. The first is a mind-mapping or relational mapping program that’s written in Flash. They call it Zui, because it’s also a zooming browser: you can dive into an area, see new details, go deeper on some particular detail, etc., etc. (here’s a demo).



via flickr

The Institute makes a lot of maps, and so I’m always interested to see programs like these. What impressed me about this is that it’s browser-accessible, and it’s also offers a way to combine abstraction or high-level organization– the top layer of the map– with lots of interesting detail that reveals itself only when you call for it.

So that was very neat. But what blew me away was seeing it in combination with a touch-sensitive screen they’ve created.



via flickr

The system consists of a glass screen with infrared sensors, backed with paper. Behind it is a projector that throws images on the screen, and a camera that watches what users are doing.



via flickr

Put all the pieces together, and you have a system that lets you project a map, then move around it by using gestures.



via flickr

They’ve also created a table version with a camera mounted above. What this let you do is put physical objects on top of the map– say, a Post-it with some words, a photograph, etc.– which the camera then records, and integrates into the map: in other words, put a physical object on the surface, and it’s transformed into a digital object on the screen. Very, very cool.

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