VIRTUAL NEWELL/SIMON SIMULATION

OFFICE C317, DOHERTY HALL, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY 

 

 

This installation is based on the offices of the fathers of artificial intelligence, Allen Newell and Herbert Simon.

Allen Newell and Herbert Simon developed the first program that could solve problems like a human, "The Logic Theorist", which they presented at a critical Dartmouth Conference in 1956.  This conference was considered to be "the birth of artificial intelligence".

Concerning the conference, Simon wrote "They didn't want to hear from us, and we sure didn't want to hear from them: we had something to show them! ... In a way it was ironic because we already had done the first example of what they were after; and second, they didn't pay much attention to it."

For three months my University allotted studio was open to the public as an immersive installation.

I drew a design from oral histories gathered from the Department of Computer Science, Jim Skees and Howard Wactler, employees active at Carnegie Mellon since the 1970's and 80's.

 

The room was based on their descriptions of the aesthetic of the era, to create a composite space based on the former offices of each professor.

 

The installation also contextualized the current home of their documents, Iron Mountain, a storage facility in Pennsylvania.

ACCESS TO THE ARCHIVE

An office at Iron Mountain Storage
An image in the installation
The back corner with foam wall
Two oscilloscopes

Their current archives are located in a highly secure archival compound known as Iron Mountain, a former mushroom farm based in a large limestone mountain.

 

Digital access to these archives is available through the University archives, and I acquired over a terabyte of data containing over 316,000 pages of digital documents.

 

An image above shows the offices at Iron Mountain, where the limestone intersects with the architecture.  I generated a 3D model of the limestone from this image, and sculpted the mesh into foam with a CNC router.  This fills the back of the installation, referring to the process of digitization.

The installation has three primary components-

 

1.  Simon Simulation

Simon's original chairs, desk and a Mac Plus, as he used Macintosh computers predominantly and didn't like to update his OS.

 

2.  A "Memex" type device with over 316,000 documents in a custom Unity interface, the entire archive of Newell and Simon in an interactive environment. 

3.  Virtual Newell

Newell's standing desk with a PERQ Workstation and augmented reality interface, containing augmented reality versions of his documents.

 

Interactive 3D scanned point cloud of the room

Film of the space

SIMON SIMULATION

A Mac Plus similar to the model used by Simon is accessible to use, at a desk filled with supplies related to copying and reproducing.

MEMEX

A Commodore PET computer, one of the earliest personal computers, is running an adapted version of Conway's Game of Life, simulating an artificial ecosystem running on a cassette tape.  This mod was a collaboration with Robert Kollar.

An interactive Memex inspired interface uses a pedal, a leap motion controller, and a keyboard to provide interactive reading access to a 3D environment composed of streaming documents from the 316,000 document database.  Each document is randomly generated from the set in an infinite space.  A screen capture of the custom software is above.

 

VIRTUAL NEWELL

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AUGMENTED REALITY SYSTEM

An augmented reality system installed in the office triggers any of the document facsimiles as over 200 documents are image targets, allowing an AR app to recognize each and display a physics based paper simulation of the document.  

 

The AR interface was used both as an app on iPads, or through an interactive kiosk conjoined with a PERQ workstation, the computer originally used by Allen Newell, on loan from the InfoAge Science Center in New Jersey.

DOCUMENT TRIGGERS

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Select documents from the archives were printed on cardstock paper, available for visitors to pick up and interact with as tangible objects.

 

AUGMENTED REALITY DOCUMENT SAMPLES

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The augmented reality interface was also available as an app on iPads used by visitors, to trigger activated documents which moved freely around the space.  

 

Screenshots below show these virtual documents mixing with the physical space.

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SOCIAL FUNCTION

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This project was generously funded by the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute

 

Visitors were guided to the location via a repurposed 1950's Carnegie Tech brochure, or encouraged to attend during an event.  Pictures above show Ivan Sutherland with his ex-wife Marcia, artist Golan Levin, artist Kyle McDonald, roboticist Chris Atkeson, Jessica Hodgins, Dave Touresky, animators James Duesing and Paolo Pedericini, as well as a diverse group of students, in majors like computer science, psychology, art, robotics, and other fields.  Portraits were taken during the end phase.

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An office at Iron Mountain Storage