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Northwestern's Imaginative Technology at Wired's NextFest

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June 14, 2005
nextfest

WIRED NextFest will feature innovative technology during a three-day festival at Navy Pier.

The Imagination Environment, a high-tech visual display developed by the Northwestern University Program in Network Arts, is one of the technological innovations that was featured at Wired magazine’s NextFest June 25 to 26 at Chicago’s Navy Pier.

The Imagination Environment plays a piece of video media on a central screen -- a political speech, a news broadcast or a theatrical scene -- and, using the technology of closed captioning, the spoken words are used to search for related images. The most popular images associated with the words in the piece are then illustrated on the eight screens surrounding the original piece of media.

Designed and implemented by David A. Shamma, a graduate student of Northwestern’s Intelligent Information Laboratory, the Imagination Environment exposes the connections between ideas and the online images that it finds.

“The Imagination Environment is one of the first systems to use the Web as a cultural object,” said Kristian J. Hammond, director of the Intelligent Information Laboratory. “It shows us the links between a flow of ideas and the images that they connect to online. It exposes us to the connections that are there, connections that we ourselves created but may not ever think of as we watch movies, the news and television.”

The Program in Network Arts is an initiative of the department of computer science of Northwestern’s Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. Its aim is to enable the creation of a set of software agents that use the machine and the network as a medium for artistic and cultural communication rather than a simple computational device.