When we first brainstormed the idea of a public space project, we played around with several ideas, a lot of them utilizing projections/projectors of some kind. We tried our hand at dealing with topical issues such as health care and obesity, but overtime, we were afraid of attempting a project with an agenda, and given the time frame, we weren’t sure how to engage the public with a project on that scale and depth. We then flirted with the idea of placing a bear in the middle of the park, in which we had envisioned people talking to the bear through a speaker. We made a little mock up of the bear sitting on a bench, but we intended to get the people to engage with the bear and so on.
So I ventured out to J&R Music World at Fulton Street and bought myself a Veho 360 speaker. Using the sewing materials we purchased at Michaels on the Upper West Side. We then decided to make a small insertion hole on top of the bear’s head and performed open head bear surgery. We charged the speaker overnight and using Bluetooth, played some mp3 and aiff files through the bear. The first week we experimented with the bear, we got an incredibly good response back. People would stop and gawk at the bear. Although it was incredibly hard to understand the bear and the audio was distorted, we were determined to get the bear talking so that people understood what he was saying.
The speaker didn’t always work. We found that sitting at the right distance (roughly 9 feet away) would be just good enough that people wouldn’t figure out we were controlling the bear, so we were inconspicuous, but at the same time, we learned later on that the bear being in that space said nothing about it. Further more, people interacted with it, surely, but aside from casual interaction they didn’t fully engage the bear like we intentionally wanted. It was something we didn’t think about in our prototyping phase, besides the fact that the design of a talking bear wasn’t necessarily unique in and of itself. So if we were to re-approach the project again, this would be something we would consider.