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Digital Shoreditch Festival showcases the best in creative and online technology from Queen Mary

An interactive game that explores long-term memory and an art sculpture that responds to changes in air pollution are just two of the projects from the Media and Arts Technology Programme at Queen Mary, University of London featured at this year’s Digital Shoreditch Festival (20-31 May).

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The annual Festival will last for two weeks for the first time with over 200 individual events that celebrate creativity around Tech City - an area around Old Street that’s home to at least 400 digital start-ups, including, SoundCloud and TweetDeck.

As part of the Great Digital Exhibition, PhD student Pollie Barden will be demonstrating a game designed to be played in the dark called Firefly. Players wearing flashing LED badges compete to see who can steal the most badges from other players but can only take a badge when the light is turned off. The challenge is to track players after the light is gone. The game explores temporal or long-term memory – the same memory skills people use in remembering where they might have parked their car, for example.

PhD students Ilze Black and Nanda Khaorapapong will be showcasing their environmental project called The Breather in public spaces including the Old Street roundabout from 9am -8pm on Monday 27 May. This eerie, spherical object seems to float in space but is actually responding to small changes in air quality. The interactive system is based on sensor technologies, air quality data and networked real-time data sharing that’s designed to inflate and deflate, like a pair of lungs, with each movement.

Media artistI lzeBlack, explains: “At the heart of the research is our desire to explore the environmental conditions of our everyday lives and the possibilities opened up by sensor technologies that can be networked together.”

Talks from Queen Mary staff will also feature during the extensive Festival programme. Jonathan Black from the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science will talk about the results from a survey of teachers asking
them how to increase students' interest in computing. Gerard Briscoe from the School of English and Drama will run a workshop that examines grassroots creativity for engagement and innovation around sustainability and the environment.

Queen Mary’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science is one of the founding members of the Festival and will be sponsoring the UK's largest technology meet up event known as Minibar* to close the Festival on Friday 31 May.

The free event will feature talks from the creators of the magnetic resonator piano, London Eye Mood Conductor – an installation which invited members to control the lights on the London Eye using hand gestures and their heart beats; founders of social analytics spinout Chatterbox, and a new legal incubator for small companies in Tech City.

The School will welcome a delegation of more than 30 global businesses as part of the Festival in a visit coordinated by the Tech City Investment Organisation and UKTI. Visitors will have a chance to experience the latest digital technologies in media and the arts that Queen Mary has to offer, and hear how they might work with researchers in the future.

Professor Mark Sandler, Head of the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, said: "Queen Mary has been involved with Tech City long before it was called that. We’ve worked with entrepreneurs, artists and businesses including, Hide and Seek, ustwo and Roli. This means that QM is perfectly placed to contribute to Tech City by providing talented graduates grounded in both technical and creative skills; through research that spans different disciplines and providing top quality interns."

Kam Star, founder of Digital Shoreditch, added: “Digital Shoreditch brings together the best talent from the digital community in London. A rare opportunity where universities, government, startups, big business and the public can all get involved and work together.”


* Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) project. The IAA aims to translate research ideas into commercial or impact success. 

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