In today’s post-modern tech world, there are no new ideas. Start-ups are judged by the standards of what came before: It’s like Uber, but for gluten-intolerant babies! It’s like AirBnB mated with NextBus! It’s a Snapchat-Spotify swirlie!
While Ballston may be a few hoodies and several trillion dollars short of Silicon Valley, the brotastic Virginia outpost is making a bid, via the Ballston BID, at upping its public-art game and tech cred in one intrapreneurial blow. Starting this month and continuing through 2015, the cookie-cutter condo complexes and office buildings of Ballston will be joined by a rotating collection of technocentric art installations.
The exhibit is titled, aptly, Public Displays of Innovation. (Unfortunately, Ballston’s interpretation of that phrase doesn’t involve making out on a park bench while operating a GoPro drone with your feet.) It’s all very—what’s that word the kids are using these days? Ah, that’s right—disruptive.
Forest of Knowledge
Adam Eig, Branden Hall, Lola Lombard, Bardia Saeedi
What it is: Eye-shaped LED screens hung from trees in Welburn Square
Tech specs: Viewers will use an app to register their current emotions, and the eyes will cry, blink, even flirt (!) back in response. In a further stroke of anthropomorphism, the trees will embody character traits—“maybe a rebel, a slow tree, a fancy tree,” say the artists.
It’s like: WebMD meets selfies
Chongha Peter Lee, Blake Turner
What it is: Real excerpts from Craigslist’s missed connections section, projected on a moveable screen and buildings all over Ballston
Tech specs: Messages from the interwebs! On a roving screen!
It’s like: Tinder meets Twitter
Ivica Ico Bukvic, Aki Ishida
What it is: A collection of “cloudlets”—lanterns equipped with software programmed by community members at workshops
Tech specs: It can’t store your important documents or your bank account information, but this cloud can communicate with itself with messages sent through light and sounds.
It’s like: Texting meets the flashlight app
What it is: Lifeguard chairs placed along what Ballston’s shoreline might be if sea levels rose to mid-NoVA
Tech specs: Each location corresponds to a climate-change-themed video, set of articles, or game on the installation’s website.
It’s like: BuzzFeed meets @AlGore
Quantum Tours Americana
What it is: Eight audio tours of the neighborhood’s past (and speculations on its future) fleshed out with interviews from the Arlington Historical Society
Tech specs: It’s an app, natch.
It’s like: Wikipedia meets voice memos
Site: WA + FC (Ballston)
Bluebrain (Hays and Ryan Holladay)
What it is: One of the duo’s famous “location-aware” set of musical compositions, mapped to two Ballston thoroughfares through an iPhone app
Tech specs: As you walk from one street to the next, your phone’s GPS will prompt a related shift in the music coming through your earbuds.
It’s like: iTunes meets Google Maps
What it is: A 60-inch flatscreen in a window at the Nature Conservancy headquarters that plays a nature video of forest life
Tech specs: Motion sensors will bring more furry critters into the picture as viewers crowd around.
It’s like: Facetime meets cat videos
Axon Xylophone Bridge
Amy Hughes Braden, Alex Braden, Zaki Ghul, Yassine El Mansouri
What it is: An artistic rendering of neural signals through light and sound on the 9th Street pedestrian skywalk
Tech specs: Each step on the bridge will trigger a corresponding LED band to alight and a “soft bell” to sound.
It’s like: Fitbit meets iTunes visualizer
Photos courtesy of Ballston BID