Digital technology will continue to disappear – Alex Chen

Google Creative Lab creative director Alexander Chen explains to Dezeen how he created a digital string you can pluck like a viola.

Dezeen and MINI World Tour: Google Creative Lab creative director Alexander Chen explains how he created a digital string you can pluck like a viola and discusses Google Glass and the future of user interface design in this movie we filmed at Design Indaba in Cape Town last month. 

Chen presented a number of his personal projects at Design Indaba, which involve novel ways of making music on a computer. "I grew up playing the viola and I've always written and recorded my own music," he explains. "I was learning that alongside computer programming and visual design [so] I always wanted to combine the things together."

For a project called, Chen created a virtual stringed instrument based on the New York subway system (above). "I'd just moved to New York and I started to think 'what if the lines on the subway map could be a musical instrument?'" he says.

In Chen's map, the different subway routes become strings, which vibrate at different frequencies based on their length. Chen then animated the map so that the strings are plucked by other subway lines that intersect them. "I took it one step further," he says. "I looked up the subway schedule and using computer code had the subway performing itself."

Chen then goes on to talk about his work at Google Creative Lab, where he helped to produce the original concept video for Google Glass, as well as the final movie demonstrating the new user interface, which Google released in February.

He believes that wearable technology like Google Glass demonstrates how digital technology in future will be more integrated into our lives. "Technology continues to disappear more and more," he says. "I don't know if I want to make any strong predictions, but I hope that technology disappears more and more from my life and you forget that you're using it all the time instead of feeling like you're burdened [by it].

"I hope it becomes more like the water running in our house and the electricity running through our buildings: we use it when we need it and then we forget about it for the rest of the day and just enjoy being people."

This movie features a MINI Cooper S Countryman.

The music featured is by South African artist Floyd Lavine, who performed as part of the Design Indaba Music Circuit. You can listen to Lavine's music on Dezeen Music Project.

Watch the Talk with Alexander Chen

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