Humanizing Technology: Meet Zigelbaum + Coelho

<p>Meet the design studio that&#8217;s pushing the pixel beyond the screen, and putting the human in human-computer interaction.</p>

Technology is increasingly leaking out from our screens and into our physical environment, and nobody is more aware of this phenomena than the people who are helping facilitate this transition: Marcelo Coelho and Jamie Zigelbaum. Founders of the eponymous design studio, Zigelbaum + Coelho, the two hybrid artist-designer-researchers originally met and began collaborating while at MIT Media Lab, and have gone on to explore and imagine all manner of possibilities for human-computer interaction.

From developing gesture-based video controllers to 3D printing food to building giant Rube Goldberg machines for OK Go, Zigelbaum + Coelho are inventing new tools and modes of interaction that explore technology’s place in our lives but always keep the human element top of mind. In a sense, they are humanizing technology with their art installations, making it more intuitive and accessible, and communicating abstract concepts about digital matter in a physical, visceral way.

For instance, in their piece Six-Forty by Four-Eighty, recently displayed at our Creators Project: New York event this past October and coming to our Creators Project: San Francisco event this March, pushes the pixel outside the confines of the computer screen. The interactive lighting installation features a grid of custom-made pixels designed and developed by Zigelbaum + Coelho and assembled by hand. The pixels are programmed to respond to human touch, changing color on impact, and can transfer color properties from pixel to pixel using a person’s body as a conduit.

In their Cambridge studio, Zigelbaum + Coelho take us behind the scenes of their newest project, Pulse, showing us the intricacies of their nuts-to-bolts design process and how they bring a concept to life. These intrepid artist-researchers are constantly treading new ground with their artistic projects, developing new experiences and prototypes for life in the digital era.