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Smart New World

22 March 2019
  • Exhibition
Special Exhibition "Smart New World"
Special Exhibition "Smart New World"Special Exhibition "Smart New World"Special Exhibition "Smart New World"

"Smarty", the friendly robot, is busy welcoming guests to the new special exhibition that started on 22.03.2019 and is escorting them on their journey of exploration through the digital hands-on stations. Visitors to the interactive exhibits can hack into the flow of a marble run, try their hand at deceiving age recognition software by wearing funny disguises, or allow themselves to be spied upon to a little extent but with surprising consequences.

"The "Smart New World" exhibition is unusually different — at once completely digital yet so unmistakably phaeno," says Christof Börner, the curator of this special presentation. He's convinced: "The smart stations inspire participation and stimulate reflection with their playfully creative approach." To preserve the special phaeno character of the exhibition, experimental installations involving the mere passive consumption of media content have been deliberately avoided.

The digitalisation of our world is bringing far-reaching changes. How we experience and can help shape these changes are also issues addressed by the new special exhibition. In keeping with the playful access to the themes being highlighted, human action is in the foreground when interacting with the exhibits. One question here is how people make use of digitalisation. Experimenters both young and old can try out for themselves whether they can control a robot arm alone with gestures in order to build a tower with the help of this robot. With this exercise one gets to know one's own strengths and weaknesses along with those of the robot arm.

As one communicates more closely with Smarty the "human" robot, further questions arise: what is technology doing with people and what possibilities open up for the future? In which domains of activity will Smarty effectively complement human services or even supplant them in the years to come? In phaeno we can already today test out our own individual attitudes and feelings about such a robot. Things get even more confusing when one "slips into the skin" of Smarty. Where's the person now and where's the robot?

At other stations, visitors are encouraged to reflect on how the new technology affects our perception of the world. If one views a screen showing a so-called crowded image, this look-and-see picture scene constantly changes. The computer guesses, so to speak, the wishes of the beholder merely by observing the line of sight: a general store becomes a DIY building centre for one visitor and a specialty toy shop for another.

In another exhibit, the traces left by users in the digital world become — in passing — playfully visible at a spy station. Even the smallest of secrets disclosed there will have an impact on the environment. Still further insights into the smart world are provided by a sandbox with a virtual trick that shows the changing contour lines of the landscape during the digging, or by a marble run that can be "hacked" with a smartphone to interfere with the flow of the balls.

In this special show, subjects like coding, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and social networking are touched upon through various playful exhibits. "After it has started, the intention is to continuously develop the new exhibition area and add further innovations," as Christof Börner looks forward with enthusiasm. "More about neural networks is planned, for example," he promises.

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