Last week, NPR’s Adam Frank introduced us to a scientist who is suggesting that human reality is actually just a complex piece of software. German interaction designer Lorenz Potthast, meanwhile, is writing software that lets humans alter their own reality.
Potthast is the creator of the Decelerator Helmet, an experimental device that slows down the wearer’s surroundings, significantly changing the way they experience time. The project, he explains, responds to "the increasingly hectic, overstimulated and restless environment" of modern life. The helmet is his way to slow it down, turning life into an "omnipresent" controlled by a hand-held remote.
Potthast is an interaction design student at the Hochschule fur Kunst in Bremen. He got the idea for the helmet in a class and built a prototype after the course had ended. Inside the aluminum sphere, a bike helmet hosts a small ASUS computer, which slows down information from the exterior camera by way of a program Potthast wrote in vvvv. A head-mounted display shows the viewer the slowed-down video, which he or she can control with a tiny wireless mouse that Potthast altered to control the type and speed of the video. There are three settings: One is normal slow motion, the next lets the user click slow-mo on and off, and the third lets them "scroll" to slow specific events down in real time.
"It gives the user an opportunity to reflect about the flow of time in general, and about the relationship between sensory perception, the environment, and corporeality," Potthast says. "Also, it dramatically visualizes how slowing down can potentially cause a loss of the present." Unsurprisingly, he had no plans to sell the helmet, which was a pet project. But it wouldn’t be too hard to re-create, if you know vvvv and have some time on your hands. Although if that’s the case, you probably don’t need a device that slows down time.