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Humanizing Technology: Meet Zigelbaum + Coelho

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.