Tag Archives: water

When Is A Window Not A Window? When It’s A Virtual Balcony.

If you’re planning a holiday on a cruise ship but can only afford an inside cabin with no windows, you might want to look out for a different kind of view – the virtual balcony.

This year, Royal Caribbean has added virtual balconies to several of its ships.  Imagine an 80-inch high-definition screen providing a live feed of views and sounds of the ocean in real-time. High-speed cameras placed strategically around the ship ensure that the feeds match the placing of the cabins, showing the view passengers would have if only their cabin wall was on the outside of the ship.

“Even when you are right up next to it, it looks like you could reach straight through it” says Bill Martin, Chief Information Officer at Royal Caribbean. Watch the video to find out more.

Large picture windows may provoke a damaging level of cognitive dissonance

When I was researching  ‘Technobiophilia: nature and cyberspace’ (Bloomsbury, 2013) I came across an interesting essay about the role of windows in relation to our desire to connect with nature. Writing in Biophilic Design, architectural designer Kent Bloomer, explains that the large picture windows we so enjoy actually provoke a damaging level of cognitive dissonance. This is because, he explains, ‘we possess a psychological boundary around our bodies (and by extension around our houses) that divides, or separates, our sense of a personal, possessed interior space from an exterior extra-personal space.’

This boundary is vitally important to our experience of the world because it conditions our perceptions of the environment; it appears at places of entry and exit, providing visual information about ‘social rank, safety, cultural belief and the occupants’ relationship to nature’. Passing through the boundary indicates the near-possibility of touching and that haptic experience is, says Bloomer, ‘fundamentally critical in establishing a firm connection, a “contact” with the natural environment. Yet’, he goes on, ‘touching is precisely what is negated by the pure picture window!’His solution is to make the boundary more obvious, not less, by investing in the liminal transitional space of the window and using different tactile ornamentations to emphasize the threshold. By touching them, or being able to imagine touching them, you may heighten your sensual association with the world outside.

His solution is to make the boundary more obvious, not less, by investing in the liminal transitional space of the window and using different tactile ornamentations to emphasize the threshold. By touching them, or being able to imagine touching them, you may heighten your sensual association with the world outside.

A visible and touchable moment of mediation between inside and outside

Royal Caribbean’s virtual balconies seem to follow Bloomer’s prescription by superimposing the structure of a railed balcony to create a liminal transitional space. They also emphasise the threshold surrounding the image with real tactile curtains.

Both establish what Bloomer calls a ‘visible and touchable moment of mediation between inside and outside’. Furthermore, the system provides accompanying live sound which matches what you would hear if you were sitting on a real balcony.

Virtual nature is a powerful tool.

There is plenty of research showing the benefits of proximity to ‘unreal’ nature such as photographs, videos, paintings, and virtual reality environments.  Virtual balconies are one more example of how this can be put into practice, and they seem to be receiving positive reviews from passengers.  In 2011, the Disney Cruise Line tried circular ‘virtual portholes’ but have not installed them in their newer ships, purportedly because of the cost, but perhaps a simulated porthole is less satisfying to our biophilic needs than a simulated balcony.

So far, virtual balconies appear to be restricted to cruise ships, but there could be many uses for them on dry land. A live view of the area outside your home or office building might not be very desirable, but the virtual window or balcony does not have to show that. Instead, it could feature scenes from selected areas of beauty such as those shown in a recent series on Norwegian TV station NRK, which streams live feeds of the Saltstraumen maelstrom. Or failing that, it could even consist of a simple recorded video similar, perhaps, to the much-missed TV Landscape Channel.

One can imagine virtual balconies and windows becoming popular with urban homeowners who enjoy beautiful views, or in hospitals where patients may be soothed by their biophilic presence, but there could also be more disturbing applications. Keeping people calm in prisons and detention centres comes to mind. Virtual nature is a powerful tool.

The latest Nordic television hit: live-streamed sea | The Guardian

Stressed out by a fast-paced daily life and binge-watching the latest hit TV shows? Norway may have the answer with its latest slow TV instalment: watching the ebb and flow of the sea, for 12 hours, without interruption.

Since 2009, the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK has been experimenting with live, slow-paced programmes, broadcasting a seven-hour train journey across the country from east to west, a six-day trip by cruise ship from south to north, and 12 hours of knitting – and it all started with a show on shearing a sheep.

NRK will air water feature on Saltstraumen maelstrom

The programmes have proved popular with viewers, so the latest idea is to live broadcast the world’s strongest tidal current, called Saltstraumen, near the city of Bodoe, about 50 miles (80km) north of the Arctic circle.

“People will experience the calm of watching the current,” said Gisle Forland, one of the two presenters of the show, due to be broadcast on 20 May, from midday to midnight.

“It will be in the same style as the other (slow TV shows). We will show nature, with the camera rolling and a little music, and people who tell the history, geology and nature of Saltstraumen,” he said.

Saltstraumen is a narrow strait linking two fjords, where sea water can flow through at speeds of up to 25mph, creating maelstroms famed at least since Viking times.

Lights, camera – and not much action, in this “current affairs” show.

Source: Norway introduces the latest Nordic television hit: live-streamed sea | World news | The Guardian

Note: Apologies – I couldn’t find a link to the show on NRK’s website. Can anyone help?

Indoor Gardening at IKEA

Indoor gardening may be something you already do, but this April  IKEA is introducing a rather different challenge designed to take most of us beyond the drooping pot of basil on the window sill.

They are launching an indoor gardening series that lets you grow your own tasty lettuce and herbs in water. Developed in collaboration with agricultural scientists in Sweden, they say that the KRYDDA/VÄXER series includes everything you need to get sprouting and keep your garden growing – even in the winter! How it works? Just keep an eye on the water level. That’s all.

The system uses hydroponics, a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Sometimes they are grown in an inert medium like perlite or gravel.

This jolly video explains all, though I can’t help but wonder how it compares with reality. It looks very scientific and all, but will growing parsley turn out to be even more challenging than putting together an Ikea wardrobe? Well, if you give it a try please let me know how it goes!