After a series of trips early in the year, some time nearer home – and a chance to immerse myself in the welcome inspiration of the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol.
The Pervasive Media Studio is home to a number of start ups, technologists, creatives and researchers – a community actively bringing together digital tech and creative thinking to generate innovative new projects and products. It is also the base for the REACT Hub, an AHRC funded collaboration with Universities of Bristol, Exeter, Cardiff, Bath and West of England.
Under the REACT banner a series of projects utilizing a collaborative innovation model developed by the Studio, the Sandbox, are exploring future trends in specific media. The current cohort are prototyping eight products which explore the impact of digital on Books & Print – using seed investments to generate new concepts and drive towards a future market opportunity. Importantly the group comprises not just academics and writers, but also choreographers, UX specialists, street games producers, artists, graphic designers – multi-disciplinarity is key.
As one of the developers of the original Sandbox model (several years and successful iterations ago) I have the privilege of acting as an advisor, spending time with the projects on a monthly basis to keep their innovation grounded in commercial possibilities.
The core of the process essentially demonstrates the values of the Studio. Generating time, resource, industry connections and a collaborative peer community to catalyse rapid prototyping and innovation. These innovations have a common tendency to drive art and technology together to explore cutting edge concepts – whether location or interface, product or service.
The push / pull between experimentation and commerce, and the balancing act of creating a supportive space for development (and fast failure) is an essential part of the environment.
The picture above is the Alphasphere, a new musical instrument. Two years ago the Studio backed its creator with a small grant and support under a Sandbox programme on the basis of a sketch, a model made out of polystyrene cups and a great idea. They now have a healthy order book and are shipping their first products to customers, via angel finance, Asian distributors, national awards and press and a production line established in Shenzhen.