PHD Inspire: Web Lab, Alan Turing and digital wizardry


Earlier this week, a few of us from PHD went on a field trip to the Science Museum to see a few interesting exhibitions that are on: Google Chrome Web Lab, Alan Turing – Codebreaker and Make It In Great Britain. I think it’s safe to say we all had a great time and learnt things we hope to use at work, especially in insight and planning. Here are a few thoughts from Tim Whatley from Rocket.

Have a look at the Google Chrome web labs online and I don’t think it’s unfair to say that it’s fairly underwhelming. On my first visit I clicked on the ‘teleporter’ link, and was show a webcam inside a bakers somewhere in the US – and while you can pan in 360 degrees live, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before and hardly teleportation. This combined with the ability to click a few buttons for different musical sounds left me feeling somewhat unimpressed. However when you see the live exhibit in the Science Museum, it all becomes a bit more impressive.

The first thing you hear is a strange rhythmic sound, which rather reminded me of the scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 60’s one) when they first enter the chocolate factory. You are given a small card with some shapes on, which through the power of magic allows you to save all of your ‘experiments’ simply by holding it up to a webcam. This is no QR code, just 3 coloured geometric shapes, and it recognises them instantly. The slightly otherworldly sounds come from a range of percussion instruments, which are either controlled through consoles in the exhibit, or by anyone around the world. Live. So while I was poking buttons to get a tune out of a Marimba, the one next to me was being played by a chap from Venezuela. I get to see the robots play the thing in front of my eyes, in accordance to his input, from nearly 5000 miles away which is happening live. Impressive stuff.

Needless to say the teleporter was better in person too – looking through a periscope thing, we were able to physically move around to direct the webcam mentioned earlier in real time which created a very surreal feeling of looking through a window to somewhere else.

One thing I had missed from the website was the robot drawing exhibit, where you can have your picture taken, which is then analysed and drawn in smoothed sand by a robot arm. I was watching the machine draw a surprisingly accurate face of somebody from across the world being drawn, while the person next to me had their picture taken by a webcam, and was watching their own face being replicated completely autonomously in front of their own eyes.

All these exhibits were massively impressive and really illustrated how we can’t really continue to view digital and online as siloed separate units, but rather as something that will increasingly continue to integrate into the offline world – offering an exciting range of possibilities for the future. It’s easy to hear about how digital is going to influence everything, but until you see it in front of your face it’s quite apparent that it’s already here, and something we should definitely be looking to make some use of in our campaigns.

While you’re at the Science Museum marvelling at the possibilities of global digital integration you can check out at rather nice exhibit on the man who made it all possible – the genius Alan Turing, who aside from cracking the enigma code (which was a large part of why we won WW2), laid down the foundations for modern computer science, making all this digital wizardry possible in the first place.

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One comment

  1. Tony Denselow

    not sure i agree on the website being unimpressive. the teleporter is live streaming in 360 without using flash. from a technical point of view, this is unprecedented. sounds like you had fun in the museum.

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