Models have a long and successful history in teaching and communication of science. From the 19th century onwards, they superseded specimens or illustrations in many fields of application by clarifying and enlarging morphological features and making contents literally tangible for larger audiences. With the advent of the digital era, we observe a step back into two-dimensional depictions. Our digital screens allow a seemingly limitless access to information with still and moving pictures, but often very passive possibilities of interaction. What would happen if we used a digital representation to interact with a model in a tangible way? How can the key virtues of traditional models be de-materialized into a virtual space?
The research project Tangible Virtual Models by the Subject Area Knowledge Visualization at Zurich University of the Arts generated a prototype of a digitally touchable model on the example of the Titan Arum, the largest flower in the World. It has been exhibited at the Zurich Design Museum and is currently on display at the Papiliorama lepidopterological reserve gardens in Berne, where it can be compared to the actual Titan Arum plant, the only specimen blooming in Switzerland.
In his talk, Alessandro Holler will give an insight on the research and realization of the prototype which can currently be viewed at 3daysofdesign and reflect on the features of models in a didactic and design perspective.