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Virtual Newell/Simon Simulation

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Virtual Newell/Simon Simulation, 2016


Image of a full custom room installation. Components: Herbert Simon’s chairs, Allen Newell “standing desk” re-created with cement blocks, multiple embedded audio speakers, 8 empty standard-issue filing cabinets, multiple bulletin boards (with removable facsimile documents from the Newell Simon archives), a Perq workstation, a Mac Plus, a Commodore Pet, an iPad and camera system running custom augmented reality software, two Tektronix Oscilloscopes with a live feed of speech-to-text files of artificial intelligence research read by standard text-to-speech software, various period-specific accouterments, plants, vintage TV monitor with video cassette of Herbert Simon lecturing, found 1970s chalkboard with a recreation of a writing from a photograph of Newell’s original chalkboard.

Virtual Newell/Simon Simulation
incorporated both computer-generated and analog interactive experiences in a large-scale mixed-reality environment, to engage visitors with the history of artificial intelligence.
A type of “augmented reality archive”, this environment was inspired by the architecture of the offices of notable scientists Allen Newell and Herbert Simon, often considered the “fathers of artificial intelligence”.


A collage of period-specific computing environments- stretching from the 1960s to the 1980s- the space was embedded with augmented reality image triggers and gesture-controlled interactive applications.


By “embodying” the original researchers, and interacting with their immense archive of research in a technologically advanced format, this interactive research environment provided a rich and engaging way for visitors to learn about the origins of artificial intelligence.

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Digitally Fabricated Environment

The limestone of Iron Mountain was re-created in the installation with a 3D printed relief as the backdrop of the space, extruded from an image of an actual office at Iron Mountain.


The image was used to generate a 3D digital model, which was cut with a CNC router into a large multi-paneled relief, painted silver for lining the back wall.

Mixed Reality Interactions

Newell & Simon were known for having copious amounts of paper in their offices. This installation used AR to re-create the clutter by using animated paper simulations. Over 100 document facsimiles from the Newell Simon archives were printed on cardstock. Each physical document acted as a “QR” code when viewed through the custom AR application.

AI Research Comes to Life

As “Image targets” when viewed through a tablet or cameras embedded in the room, each document triggered an augmented reality simulation of paper simulations, filling the office.


The application was coded to recognize each document and trigger physics-based animations based on the angle and movement of the tablet in the environment.