Human Generated Environment is a new way to organize object spaces so that they serve as user interfaces, but also function as local data environments, in which the logic of internal and external interactions between the elements works according to the rules defined by designer.

Interplay medium is an open interdisciplinary laboratory that focuses on the development of software, hardware and aesthetic solutions for local interactive spaces.

im-object (reads as “I am Object”) is an object that interacts with other objects, as well as with a human and with the environment as a whole by means of embedded electronic interfaces.


We are living in the era of technology and information, and the true significance and perspectives of this have just started to take shape. Widespread availability of computers and the advancement of global information structures are changing the way we think of communication itself. Computer technology has moved past its infancy; we no longer use computers just to store and process information, but also to exchange and restructure it. Affordable devices available today make it possible to communicate at an entirely new level. What does the future hold for us?

The human generated environment

The idea that human existence is a continuous reorganization of surrounding reality is anything but new. As far back as in the Classic Antiquity, Vitruvius, in describing architectural principles, regarded the process of architectural creation as a transformation of the basic elements of nature. Later, the idea of reorganization in a broader sense was reflected in the aesthetics and philosophy of Renaissance as well as in the theory and practice of XXth century design. Today we understand the concept of design at an even more abstract level, referring to the organization of information in general as a fundamental principle of all processes, not only in relation to the physical world but also at the level of abstract relations and categories.

The adaptation of electronics to our senses, to our nature, to our ever-complicating language, as well as the emerging accessibility of tools, miniaturization and cheaper production of electronic components, and eventually understanding of the value of free information exchange opens the perspective that we now can only guess. However, one thing is certain – electronics as a tool is just starting on a triumphant procession across the planet.

The emergence of open hardware projects; the creation of decentralized networking protocols and the growing community of hacker enthusiasts who modify commercially developed, sometimes out-of-date, electronics into more ingenious functional systems – all these are visible signs that the process is prone to fragmentation and going beyond the level of mere automation of industrial and personal tasks. As a result, electronics emerges as not just a useful tool, but also as a working material for the artist, designer, creator.

The interplay medium

We usually think of a composition (in visual arts, architecture, literature or music) as an arrangement of passive objects that form a meaningful structure in our imagination according to the laws of shape and color perception. We normally speak of an interaction between objects in a composition at the level of color and juxtaposition of sizes and shapes. We may then formulate rules on how these interactions should be structured so that the results are customary to our perception, and use these results as a means of expression. But today we can go beyond that: our new electronic “sense organs” give us the opportunity to perceive information and interact in an entirely new way. The time has come to teach the world of objects a new language.

Imagine an interior or a landscape, in which all objects share information about their location and physical state with each other. As the designer of an interactive space, you can define the algorithmic logic by which the objects operate, which complements the visible logic of the architectural space. As a user of the information space, you can interact with the environment and change its parameters via the physical and virtual “interfaces” provided by the designer.

You can use the conventional ways of physical interaction with the objects, but can also choose to interact with the environment through personal electronic devices. Either way, any interaction with domestic or industrial devices is just a special case of a Human Generated Environment, such as a “smart house” or a computer-controlled system of street lighting. Such systems, however, serve merely to automate an already existing conventional process. But Human Generated Environment as a concept extends beyond this: it aims to structure the interaction at an entirely different level, where the data itself and the character of data representation are used as expressive tools.

This is a new concept of structuring the environment that includes interactive and informational components acting at the level of human-object, object-object and network-object-human interactions, in addition to the conventional means of expression.

Who are the creators of the interplay medium?

Thinking of the future of electronics and observing a great number of more and more interesting projects whose creators often come from the neighbouring fields (and at times from even rather remote ones), makes me remember the 1970-80s. It was the time when specialists from completely different disciplines started to pay attention to computer technologies. The programming community was enriched by designers working with digital images and musicians dealing with synthetic sound. Later, the programmers themselves would join the designers and animators, applying their skills in the interactive graphics. The fact that the most striking and interesting works were the result of an unusual symbiosis between interdisciplinary developers makes me think that only the professionals of this kind can take the first leap from the virtual world of Flash, maxMSP, PureData and of many others similar intricate tools enclosed in a computer to the physical reality. On the other hand, the creators, who had not previously had a chance to deal with electronic technologies, discover for themselves the new opportunities opened by the microprocessor techniques. Visit the blog of the “Make” magazine or go to the Arduino website for hundreds of examples of such projects.

The moment has come for the development of interactive design to overcome the boundaries of the virtual world of a PC and acquire a new meaning in the physical world. The interplay medium aims to explore this new field as well as develop new tools for these kinds of projects.

Everyone wishing to participate can join in any existing project or start their own ideas. You can develop something by using our tutorials and source code and following the spirit and the rules of the GPL. Would be great if you give us a few lines about your project!

Some related links

This is a rapidly developing field, so there’s no way we’d be able to cover everything here. Below are some of the most interesting links, which are best-suited to help understand the concept of the Human Generated Environment.



  • Distributed self-organizing computer system, (video)
    Implementation of computer architecture (different from von Neumann’s) based on development of the distributed network of microcomputers that form flexible, scalable and self-organizing computer system.
  • Millimetre-scale, energy-harvesting sensor system
  • Wireless Power Transfer
  • Dynamic facade
    at “Kiefer technique showroom”
  • Daylight Window concept.
    The full presentation of the Philips Daylight Window concept shown at the Simplicity Event 2007 at Earls Court in London
  • Interactive wallpaper.
    This project experiments with an interactive wallpaper that can be programmed to monitor its environment, control the lighting and sound, and generally serve as a beautiful and unobtrusive way to enrich environments with computation.
  • EyeTap.A device that is worn in front of the eye that acts as a camera to record the scene available to the eye as well as a display to superimpose a computer-generated imagery on the original scene available to the eye.
  • A wearable, gestural interface that augments our physical world with digital information, and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information.


  • McLuhan Marshall, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man; 1st Ed. McGraw Hill, NY, 1964
    The fundamental work of the famous Canadian philosopher, philologist and theorist of electronic communicational facilities. In this book, McLuhan describes the role of the electronic media in the modern society and attempts to evaluate the scope and a character of its influence on a human being.

  • Heidegger Martin, Die Frage nach der Technik // Die Kunste im technischen Zeitalter. Munchen, 1954
    Heidegger’s lecture “The question concerning technology” in Munich Technical University as part of the lecture series “Art in the era of technology” organized by the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts in November 1953. Here, Heidegger shares his thoughts on the role and predestination of technology in culture.

  • Moles Abraham, Théorie de l’information et perception esthétique, Paris, Denoël, 1973
    “Information theory and aesthetic perception” is up to now one of the first attempt of a very few of this kind to examine aesthetic perception from the point of view of Mathematics, Cognitive Psychology and Information Theory.

  • Rob van Kranenburg, The Internet of Things 2008
    This is the book of Dutch social scientist, literary critic and theorist of the new media. In his book Kranenburg tries to look into the nearest future of the ambient technologies and the “all-seeing” networks. He shares his concerns of the mainstream directions of their development and highlights the emerging alternative trends in the development of the technologies and their influence on the society.
    The book was publishes under the Creative Commons Licence and is available for download it at the web-page of the Institute of Network Cultures (link above)