I’m still trying to get my head around Kitchen Budapest. This facility, also known as ‘KIBU,’ describes itself as “a new media lab for young researchers who are interested in the convergence of mobile communication, online communities and urban space and are passionate about creating experimental projects in cross-disciplinary teams.” I guess what surprises me the most is that it’s located in Hungary.
It used to be the tradition here that nearly any young Hungarian with ambition and talent would leave the country to seek their fortune. Not only does KIBU offer opportunities at home, but they also offer guest residencies to foreigners.
The other shocker is that Kitchen Budapest is funded by Magyar Telekom – apparently with few strings attached.
I find it hard to be a fan of Magyar Telekom. I recently bashed the company, while noting that MT received high marks for its wireless broadband service. I’ve had a difficult relationship with MT over the years. However, I also know a handful of talented people at MT, including the current CEO, Chris Mattheisen (his Wikipedia page is only available in Hungarian!). Like any big institution, MT struggles with its own inertia. KIBU is yet another sign that MT is moving in the right direction.
For decades, MT has spent millions sponsoring concerts and sports events, and on mainstream advertising. For just a fraction of that budget they’ve built a technology playpen that might one day contribute to their bottom line. Most of the projects I saw at KIBU are whimsical, impractical and fun. However, one project has also been spun off commercially, and seems to be a hit. That project is Prezi. (I wrote about Prezi here.)
Here’s a quick taste of what’s cooking in the Kitchen.
Urban Echo is a series of public video projections that aims to collect and creatively represent the thoughts and imaginings of city-dwellers. participants send their thoughts and questions via SMS and voicemail. The responses are the then projected and added to a dynamic spatialized audio composition.
The Landprint project aims to reproduce subtle patterns and photos by combining various species of plants with programmed robotics. Plants and flowers that spawn seem to make continuous patterns with their various colours and shades seen from a distance.
Here’s another view of Landprint: