"An innovative use of available technology to create an immersive, interactive tabletop environment. —juror Kelly Goto
"A thoughtfully reimagined restaurant experience that is full of delight...from the blowing leaves to the playful woodcut painting games." —juror David Wright
Overview: This interactive dining experience for a restaurant in Moscow is sophisticated, world class and fun. Additionally, thanks to a close collaboration with the restaurant's architect, Moscow's much-loved Alexander Brodsky, it feels "Russian," not imported. Each seat has access to six essential features that include the food and beverage menu, a between-tables message-passing communication system, a group game and a watercolor feature. Prior to being seated, each guest is given a black, etched quarter-sized token that's to "unlock" the table, move between features and "lock" the table when dinner is served. A top-level navigation consisting of a small grid of six, white, circular icons is presented for each seat; placing the token on one of the white icons activates the corresponding feature.
• Development time was eighteen months—including waiting a few extra months for the restaurant construction to be completed.
• Programmed in C++ the tables use PotionSense (Potion's proprietary framework) for tracking hand movements and any static objects placed on the table.
• All of the physical hardware is located in the glowing red "lampshades" above each table. This provides two benefits: spilled drinks and food are far from anything with a power cord and the guest don't feel like they're eating on oversized iPads.
Comments by Jared Schiffman:
How did the design come about? "Initially, we followed the lead of the architect, Alexander Brodsky, whose vision involved extending the raw space's concrete surfaces to all of the furniture and fixtures. Based on this preliminary direction, we imagined a contest between Mother Nature and the abandoned industrial structures of post-Soviet Russia, played out on NOVIY's concrete dining tables: water drops on the concrete slowly cause fissures and cracks, from which tiny flowers eventually grow and the yellow- and orange-tinted leaves that blow across the table suggest the changing of seasons and the weathering effects of time."
Did you meet with any out-of-the-ordinary obstacles during development? "One of many was that several of the tables, which were cast in solid concrete, were not built to the correct dimensions. Since they couldn't be recast, we had to adjust the interface on many of the tables at the last moment. Other challenges included working in English and Russian and ensuring that the interface worked even with plates, glasses and other items spread across the tables."
What was the most challenging aspect of the project? "The scale of it. The total installation used 40 projectors and just as many computers, custom mounts, sensors and power controllers. The entire process required a massive planning effort and six extended trips to Moscow. When everything came together just before the opening, it felt like a small miracle."
Did you learn anything new during the process? "With every project, there is something new to learn, and it is never what's expected. At the start of the project, we were worried that our design wouldn't succeed with a Russian audience—that the cultural divide would be too wide to bridge. On opening night, however, our concerns were assuaged; it was great to see that 'wonder' is a universal emotion."