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User Preferences: Tech Q&A With Maxence Parache

Each week we chat about the tools of the trade with one outstanding creative to find out exactly how they do what they do. The questions are always the same, the answers, not so much. This week: Maxence Parache. Click here for more User Preferences Tech Q&As.

The Creators Project: Who are you and what do you do?
Maxence Parache
: I’m a French multidisciplinary designer and digital artist. I create interactive installations and design compelling user experiences based on physical computing. I like to see people amazed by new technologies, when they’re talking about something “magical” they just experienced. They speak to the piece and with an equal force, the piece speaks back. It’s all about creating a dialogue with technology. I strongly believe in open source, sharing knowledge, freedom of information, and I’m looking forward to working on future technologies, integrated devices, and meaningful user experiences. People have already started to create and personalize their own devices, “Atoms are the new bits.”

Museum goers at the Geffrye Museum in London interact with Parache’s installation, Hyper(Reality).

The Creators Project: What kind of hardware do you use?
Maxence Parache
: I’m using a Macbook Pro running both OSX and Windows. My treasure chest also contains a Kinect, webcams, a projector, DSLR, GoPro, an Arduino card with all kind of sensors, as well as everything you’d find in an good workshop. A 3D printer would be nice. The future of human-computer interaction is looking bright with new revolutionary and affordable devices being announced every year. The developer version of the Leap Motion is already shipping and other technologies such as Kickstarter-funded Oculus Rift, Raspberry Pi or haptic touchscreens will be, among other things, new toys to play with.

The Creators Project: What kind of software do you use?
Maxence Parache
: I’m using a broad range of softwares but I often collaborate with good creative technologists when I need heavy coding skills. You can’t learn C++ in a week. If I have to give a few names, I’d say openFrameworks, Arduino, Processing, Unity3D, Ableton Live, and MadMapper. The hard part is getting all these softwares to communicate with each other on the same machine. Also like most designers, I’m using the Adobe Creative Suite to create content.

A user’s experience of Hyper(Reality).

The Creators Project: What piece of equipment can you simply not live without?
Maxence Parache
: I’m not a phone person, so probably my laptop, passport, and a good pair of shoes.

The Creators Project: If money were no object, how would you change your current setup?
Maxence Parache
: If money were no object, I’d restart the Death Star construction, of course. On a more serious note, a lot of new technologies are now affordable, which encourages people to tinker, personalize, and just be more creative. Money is important for commercial projects, but prototyping an idea can be far more creative and successful. Expensive commercial devices are an issue— no one would start playing with a brand new smartphone and a soldering iron, and that’s something we need to change somehow. For example I’ve heard of people attaching their old iPhone to a weather balloon to take pictures from the edge of space. Now, that’s the kind of project I’m talking about. Open source communities or the MIT Media Lab are showing the way.

The Creators Project: Is there any piece of technology that inspired you to take the path you did?
Maxence Parache
: Most probably the Kinect. Before it was released, I was already working on a basic 3D scanning setup using Structured Light , created by Kyle McDonald for the openFrameworks community. The results were basic but encouraging. Then the Kinect came out, and it blew my mind.

Immersed into this dream-like virtual space, the user gradually discovers the collection of curiosities, creating a new sensorial experience.

The Creators Project: What is your favorite piece of technology from your childhood?
Maxence Parache
: I grew up in the countryside so I used to build stuff with my own hands. But since tree houses weren’t connected yet, I’d say my first PC and everything created by Nintendo until the Wii came out.

The Creators Project: What fantasy piece of technology would you like to see invented?
Maxence Parache
: Light speed transportation and affordable space tourism. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would like to see a sunrise from the rings of Saturn right now. Cassini is one lucky space probe. In design, there are still so many things to invent and develop. Technology isn’t just about the latest geeky product that you can’t afford but rather a deep understanding of human needs and behaviors. I’ve seen amazing projects that use solar power to clean polluted water or physically print dishes and tools out of sand. These are the kind of projects I would like to see in everyone’s hands.

Hyper(Reality), a vision created by Maxence Parache.

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