Interactive sculpture & installation

London, 2017

A speculation on the future of interfaces via touch responsive hand-blown glass.

Developed as Lucy’s RCA MA in Information Experience Design graduate show, Qualia is the world’s first touch responsive interface made from hand-blown glass.

Building on research regarding the changing relationship each of us formulates with material, Qualia aims to expose glass' materiality and question not only our relationship with it, but the potential that engagement has to expose ideas of craft and consumption.

Part of the material research for Qualia saw Hardcastle build on her experimentation with glass and learn the craft of glassblowing to make her own pieces. In order to create a renewed physiological experience exposing our current misalignment with this material, Qualia innovates with the methods producing conductivity in glass. 

Using earth metal elements that already exist in touch interfaces, Hardcastle has applied this to a curved, blown surface. 
The adoption of this technology with this style of form has never before been applied whilst maintaining the glass’ clear appearance. 

This allows for use of this transparent site as a vehicle for projection mapping and infrared software to transpose bespoke visuals drawing on the chemical and mercurial properties of the conductive coating and encourage the user to interact with the form in the way that we’re used to: an inferred sense of touch, with responsive feedback. 

The visuals imply a textural and responsive surface, drawing on physical experiences such as interacting with running water and witnessing its dispersal, or touching screen based pressure points and enacting a colourful and multiple response.

Qualia, as a tool and interface, has a great number of potential applications in multiple fields. 

At essence it is a conductive glass form that is transparent and touch responsive, though the theoretical questions it raises about how we interact with, play with, and order the world around us, what we prioritise and indeed notice when we interact, enable the reinstatement of the physicality of this often obscured, through transparent, material. 

The combination of visual codes and solid form within Qualia explore ideas of perfection and craftsmanship in modern interface technology and psychology, as well as raising questions about the learnt, and prescribed, behaviours of touch screen interaction; the reductive and ‘tidying’ approach we have to this specific interface which negates traditional play-orientated modes of interaction.
Hardcastle says: “When you play with Qualia you have a feeling of clearing away while experiencing fluid motion that to me represents the changing in forms we see through the human curiosity to play, the craftsmanship of glass and the natural swiping gesture we relate to touch screens. It’s about that desire to reach out and touch something, and that moment between the reaching and the touching.”

Our relationship with the surfaces we interact with have changed. Our appreciation of the materials we encounter everyday have become flawed, misaligned. We are no longer connected to the craftsman behind the materials we encounter, material becoming the invisible interface, a thing that gets in the way, rather than something to be experienced within itself. 

Craftsmanship and materials imply a sense of engagement, both mentally and physically in the process of creation.
This is certainly true when we think about glass, and what that comes to represent to us as a society at large. We are currently experiencing a loss of this engagement through our fundamentally flawed relationship with glass as a portal for consumption. 

Qualia premiered at ShowRCA in 2017, and has been featured online at publications such as LSN Global and Vice.


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