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Friday, July 9, 2010

ART BRIEF

Science exhibition / 'Sensor in the Life'


Staff Writer

Sony ExploraScience

News photo
Sound Chaos: One of the exhibits that uses the Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. SmartSkin sensor. COURTESY OF SONY EXPLORASCIENCE

"Sensor in the Life" closes Aug. 31

In a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture in 2003, science was ranked as the subject school students thought to be the least important to learn, even though it was also listed as their favorite. Perhaps children see science as fun but don't quite grasp the relevance of it, which is why innovative museums, such as the Sony ExploraScience, are bound to appeal to any mobile-phone-wielding, Internet-surfing, video-game-playing kid.

Split into three sections — Sound Zone, Light Zone, Theater / Workshop Zone — and including the temporary exhibition area Studio SES, the Sony ExploraScience museum is, on the surface, all about interactive fun and cutting-edge eye candy. There are plenty of buttons to push, dials to turn and 3-D films to watch. But while "pitch switching" your voice till you sound like you're on helium or out-grinning an opponent in a "smile fight" can be hilarious, there is a more serious agenda: conveying basic principles and everyday applications of science. Many of the installations make use of technology already utilized in digital cameras, mobile phones and computer games, while others give us glimpses into the future of technology.

Some exhibits are charmingly low tech — one device involves staring into red and green lights until it has a dizzying effect on color perception — but it's Sony Corporation's use of its own advanced technology that gives the exhibition its edge. Infrared cameras allow hand shadows to be recognized and turned into CG critters; Sony's SmartSkin sensor can detect electricity in humans, which is then used to trigger animated light patterns and sounds; and Cybercodes, similar to QR codes, lead viewers into the world of augmented reality.

"Sensor in the Life," the current temporary exhibition, showcases more ideas seemingly under development in Sony's labs, such as a device that detects the colors of your clothing to create a personality profile based on your color preferences. The final installation reminds us of the importance of research in tech development. Visitors' finger veins are scanned and, with permission, added to a database. To what end, though, is anyone's guess. Maybe Sony is planning to leave that up to the next generation of young scientists to figure out.

Sony ExploraScience is in the Mediage building in Odaiba; admission ¥500. For more information, visit www.sonyexplorascience.jp/english/index.html

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