STEP INSIDE A HUMAN CELL AND LEARN ABOUT THE FASCINATING MICRO-WORLD

The Living Cell creates support and recognition for fundamental research at the Genetics center in Groningen.

Project background

Only a few research institutes worldwide focus exclusively on the human aging process and cell biology. One of these institutes is the European Institute for the Biology of Ageing (ERIBA) whose mission is to better understand what causes ‘ageing’. ERIBA is part of the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), one of the largest university medical centres in the world.

UMCG and ERIBA asked us to create an experience that would explain and communicate the centre’s research and aging process to a wide audience. We created an interactive installation of a human cell that celebrates the fundamental research in this field.

The ‘Living Cell’ visualises various components and processes of a human cell and answers questions such as: What happens if a cell ages and its DNA starts to contain errors? How does a cell react to bad external influences? How does the cell store energy?

Client

Challenge

Create support and recognition for fundamental Genetic research

Target audience

General public, Investors

Solution

Interactive installation with 3D-camera’s

Result

An interactive experience that explains complex research through an engaging and immersive experience. The installation has continued to tour the globe and is currently on display in Dubai and Poland

Design

Using the expertise of various biologists and several sketch sessions to determine a number of scenarios, we developed a visual style and pattern of interaction.
The first version was controlled via buttons on a panel and was tested at a festival. This provided us with a lot of information about how an audience interacts with complex, unknown information like the processes in a human cell.

It became apparent that the audience was too passive and needed to interact directly with the cell. Therefore, we decided to let the audience into the cell to track their motion. Plus, we focused on the visual language placing descriptive texts with the cell processes to aid understanding.

The Living Cell is also part of the Nobel Museum Exhibition in Dubai.

Living cell Documentary

Living Cell Explained

Technology

Processing

We leveraged the flexibility of Processing to generate the visuals via its OpenGL rendering context and tie all other software parts of the simulation such as the physics and camera input together.

JBox2D

For the physics in the simulation we relied on the java implementation of the well known Box2D engine. All movement and interaction of the elements in the cell are handled by JBox2Ds system of bodies and springs.

OpenCV / Kinect

We used the OpenCV image processing library to track users with a top-mounted Microsoft Kinect camera. OpenCV provided us with robust near real time processing of the raw depth image to user positions and interactions.

Result

The interesting thing about the Living Cell is the fact that it is a model of very basic processes. Visitors of the exhibition space will be able to intervene in biological processes. They can switch on UV radiation or add sugar or other chemicals to the cell and immediately see what the results are.

Media & Publicity

Trendhunter: "The Living Cell Installation Lets You Explore a Human Cell"
Trendhunter: "The Living Cell Installation Lets You Explore a Human Cell"
Microsoft: "An ode to Dutch genomic research through Kinect and interactivity"
Microsoft: "An ode to Dutch genomic research through Kinect and interactivity"
Ministry of Education, Culture and Science: "Comprehending science through arts"
Ministry of Education, Culture and Science: "Comprehending science through arts"

Awards

edaward

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