Tech Overlook

Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers create ‘quite magical’ flower garden of sound in Amsterdam with ‘Bloom: Open Space’

A man wearing a HoloLens device is crouching and has his arm outstretched with his hand in a pinching motion.
Visitors at the “Bloom: Open Space” installation in Amsterdam don HoloLens headsets and “pinch” 3D blooms into existence around them. (Photo by Maarten Delobel)

“There’s something quite magical about using Bloom with HoloLens, and tapping the air and experiencing these magical shapes and sounds that appear around you,” Chilvers says. “It’s like wandering through a flower garden. They really do look amazingly solid. You have to keep reminding yourself they’re not really there.”

The pair spent about six months developing their idea for “Bloom: Open Space” before giving it a trial run in a warehouse in New York in November, with various colleagues, friends and family. They discovered that people interacted and expressed their personalities in ways they hadn’t even imagined.

Some crouched alone in a corner, placing blooms contemplatively and marveling as the orbs and sounds floated up around and past them. Others collaborated, designing bouquets of each other’s colors and notes in various palettes and patterns. And still others ran around the warehouse like kids in a candy shop, splashing blooms about willy-nilly.

One photographer who’d been hired to capture pictures of the trial ended up losing himself in it, creating fields of blooms and walking through them.

“It will be interesting to see how complete strangers behave with each other in Amsterdam,” Chilvers said before the installation opened. “I can imagine a few relationships starting this way, to be honest.”

Devices that augment reality began as gaming applications but quickly morphed into useful tools for situations such as medical training, inspecting elevators and jet engines and even redesigning golf courses.

HoloLens offers an interactive experience, “not through a screen but literally surrounding you,” that is spatial, physical, sensory and communicative, says Nick Kamuda, the creative director for the HoloLens team. It’s a powerful way to bring one’s imagination to the real world where others can experience it, says Kamuda, whose background is in music and the fine arts.

“Any new platform suggests new possibilities — usually not ones for which the platform was specifically made,” Eno says. “Those are, to me, the interesting possibilities, the ideas that wouldn’t have come into being were it not for the platform.”

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