Spatial computing in interactive architecture
Distributed computing is the theoretical foundation for applications and technologies like interactive architecture, wearable computing, and smart materials. It evolves continuously, following needs rising from scientific developments, novel uses of technology, or simply the curiosity to better understand the world around us. The pace of evolution is fast: in a short span of time distributed computing helped the Internet develop into how we know it today and overcame the dynamics of the large spread of mobile wireless communication. Soon, we will see the effects of distributed computing in the rise of the Internet of Things. Interactive architecture brings a specific set of requirements to distributed computing (sheer number of devices, specific dynamics, resources, control constraints, etc.). The mapping between the requirements of interactive installation and distributed systems theory is well understood. Architects are already acquainted with concepts such as emergent behavior and swarm behavior and use them in their concepts. Nevertheless, despite the availability of all the constituent ingredients, the number of large-scale installations employing distributed behavior in hardware and software is very small. The vast majority of systems are still controlled from a central computer that creates the desired behavior and that faces obvious issues of scale. This is the main research question that we would like to tackle in this essay. Before going into details, let us contemplate for a moment the larger picture, making abstraction of the technological barriers. The dream of large-scale interactive systems responding and adapting instantly to the user’s desires will come one step closer to actualization. For example, the myriad inputs triggered by the crowds inhabiting a city will be translated automatically through extensively equipped intelligent surroundings. Aspects of control, safety, and privacy will be automatically dealt with in real time. Humans will have a new understanding of the world around them, which will simply adapt to suit their needs. Smart cities and the Internet of Things will finally become a reality.