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Thinc Iowa installment offers chance for Fresk to flex Kinect muscle

November 2, 2011 by

Fresk’s display at Thinc Iowa gave conference-goers a chance to peruse the event’s schedule, speakers, companies and Twitter buzz. Photo by Anna Jones and Ikonix Studio.

When Stefan Hansen (left) and his brother Thomas were asked to create an interactive installment for last month’s Thinc Iowa conference, the brothers didn’t just — ahem — thinc about it; they let their imaginations run wild.

Stefan, 26 and Thomas, 28, who together form Fresk Interactive, used the conference as a welcome opportunity to experiment with the Kinect, Microsoft’s motion-sensing input device. Thinc Iowa marked the first time the Hansens have used the Kinect for an installment they’ve shared with more than a small group of users.

“We just get to be a little creative,” Stefan said of working with the Kinect. “We’ve been doing a lot of stuff with touch screens, but I think we just wanted to try something new. It’s very experimental, I think.”

Using a Mac mini connected to a projector and the Kinect, the brothers rigged up an interactive display that enabled conference-goers to use hand motions to peruse the Thinc Iowa schedule, speakers, companies and Twitter buzz. The entire display was projected onto a wall inside Des Moines’ Temple for Performing Arts, the site of the conference. 

The Hansens’ previous projects include BeerGenius, an interactive browser we covered in February that helps beer-drinkers choose the right brews. The brothers are also the brains behind noBooth, a high-tech photo booth that uses touch-screen technology to snap and edit photos, which was recently highlighted in a Des Moines register article. They have also created touch-screen displays for other events, like the Heartland Greenup and Iowa State Fair. But the Hansens welcomed the chance to broaden their horizons by creating an installment working with different input hardware.

“I think all of this stuff — I mean, if we’re talking about the Kinect or if we’re talking about touch screens or if we’re talking about Siri – is just in the process of trying to figure out what’s the most natural way for us to interact with (technology),” Stefan said. “And, I mean, there’s just so many different ways you can do it.”

I visited with the brothers as they tinkered with their display the day before Thinc Iowa and chewed over ideas for how to enhance it before the next day, and it became clear that working with the Kinect captivated their collective imagination. They discussed ways they could utilizing the technology in the future, from intelligent “billboard” advertisements to interactive storefronts.

“There’s just so many new interaction things, and the’yre used a lot in games and research,” Thomas (above) said. “But I think we’re just kind of trying to explore them and then find people who we can apply them (for), to create value for them.”

For the brothers, the conference provided a valuable chance to observe their installment in the wild and learn about users’ interaction with it. “It’s always fun to se things in action when people use them,” Stefan said afterward. “I think we learned a lot.”

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