Electric Objects’ first product, the EO1, is a bit of an anomaly: a computer that you don’t interact with, except to look at it. The New York City startup is reimagining the way we display art in the digital age, and that means creating a display that strips away the apps, the notifications, all the digital stuff that clutters up the rest of our screens -- essentially stripping the desktop down to its background image, so that image can be appreciated as a work of art.
We look at hundreds or thousands of images every day online and in apps, but rarely do we pause to take them in as fully as we would a framed work at a museum or gallery. For the most part, our screens just aren’t designed for it: they’re too small, too mobile, and attached to devices that are designed to let us do five things at once.
On the other hand, computers have opened up new frontiers for artists, providing tools and techniques unavailable with analog media and lowering barriers to entry, like the need for materials and studio space. Electric Objects is betting that there’s enough digital art out there (the company claims there’s more art on the Internet than in every gallery and museum in the world combined) and that it’s of sufficient quality to justify a screen that exists only as a passive visual showcase.
Hence the EO1, a powerful but minimalist computer. A 23-inch IPS display offers 1920x1080 HD resolution, backed by multiple graphics accelerators, 2 GB of flash memory, and wifi and Bluetooth connectivity. It’s got everything you need to display large, beautiful images and even animations -- nothing more. (Imagine a gallery full of gifs! It would be just like the magical animated paintings from Harry Potter, but with more kittens and pratfalls.)
Images are uploaded, swapped and managed using an app on an entirely different screen: the user’s mobile device. Separating the interactivity of the EO1’s app from the device itself assures that the art remains front and center, while the digital nature of the screen “just fades away.”
Electric Objects is partnering with museums and libraries to make their digital collections, including scans of classic works, easily available through the app. The company is also building an ecosystem of digital artists creating with the device in mind. Down the road, the concept could lead to new ways for digital artists to sell and distribute their work.
Visit Electric Objects’ Kickstarter page to learn more, or take a long, museum-gallery look at the video below.
Additional: Creatort Project Interview
Author: Ted Burnham