Partners: Universal Design Studio, MAP, B-Reel, Karsten Schmidt, Fraser Randall
Photographs: Andrew Meredith
I worked on this project as Lead Engineer at Tellart
“Web Lab [was] a groundbreaking, year-long exhibition, featuring a series of interactive Chrome Experiments that bring the extraordinary workings of the internet to life.
Google Creative Lab and Tellart created the concept of the Web Lab–from the user-experience as an integrated online and onsite experience, to its science museum context and audience, to the optical Lab Tag method for collecting artifacts, to the interactions between digital and physical touchpoints which allow in-museum and online audiences to collaborate.
Visitors to the London Science Museum are able to play with five unique installations, while at the same time, online participants can visit www.chromeweblab.com and interact with the same installations. Together, in-museum and online visitors will bring web technologies to life through five experiments”
- Description courtesy of Tellart
The Web Lab project took several years to complete, and it was a life-changing experience for me. Millions of people experienced it online, and over 500,000 people experienced it live in the London Science Museum. All of the robotics, cameras, and musical instruments in the Web Lab were used 24/7 for one year.
The key ingredient to making Web Lab a success was effective collaboration–internally at Tellart, with our client, with the museum, and with all of the numerous design, fabrication, and project management partners along the way. Although each member of the team was crucial, there is not a single aspect of the Web Lab that was conceived or built by one person.
As lead Engineer, my responsibilities changed as the project evolved.
In the beginning, I worked with the Google marketing team and my Tellart teammates to envision the project and guide our vision towards something that could be built–as much design strategy as it was engineering. I helped come up with wild ideas, research their feasibility, and weigh each idea’s potential effect on budget, schedule, and labor time.
In the prototyping phase, I helped decide what aspects of each idea needed testing and how to build the working model. In some cases, we discovered that the original idea was just not working. In other cases, very little changed. Each prototype was tested with the public in a science museum, so we really had a chance to vet the ideas and find the pain-points in their engineering.
In the production phase, I wore a lot of hats. I helped estimate final budgets and figured out how to fit our goals into the actual budgets available. I helped newer programmers and engineers devise, implement, and test our solutions. I created master documentation of all the necessary devices and how they were to be connected. And, for quite a while, I was hunkered down with a big repository of code, hacking away. Finally, I helped stress-test it and get it ready for the public, and led our hand-off to the museum staff for maintenance.
In the end, watching thousands of school children make music and play with robots that we built was pretty special.