You can’t tell much about someone just by looking at them. Maybe you see that they like Italian leather shoes, or that they need more sleep, but you don’t know much else. What causes do they care about? What projects are they working on? What excites them?
For this sort of discovery, many of us stalk Facebook or Pinterest. Architecture firm NBBJ has a better solution. They’ve developed a project called fluidWall. And as you walk by, it projects a series of photos that represent you.
"Thinking about digital content as an architectural material, the concept is around using digital walls to open dialogue between people," explains the project’s abstract. "If a nearby wall could tell you a little something about the person standing next to it, engaging in conversation would be really fluid and fun."
Wouldn’t the shyest people just avoid walking by the wall altogether? Maybe. But the project takes into consideration our privacy concerns and personal choices, which perhaps makes it easier for some to open themselves up to the idea. First, the user retains the authority to curate the images that the world sees—and, essentially, your public image—so the projection isn't an intrusion. Second, anyone walking by the wall activates the technology. So assuming the fluidWall is placed in a central traffic area, sharing photos of your latest vacation or child’s first birthday isn’t bragging. It’s simply an effect of the environment you’re in, sort of like casting a shadow.
NBBJ imagines a scenario in which every employee in a building carries around an access card that's fitted with RFID (radio-frequency identification, a low-power radio transmission). These cards are already quite common in office complexes, but the difference here is that NBBJ has connected those cards to an RFID receiver that, instead of unlocking a door, activates software to pull up a passerby's photos.
This interaction may seem fairly basic at heart—you walk by a wall that posts photos for you—but fluidWall demonstrates that our environments can be designed to help us connect to people in ways beyond floor plans and furniture. Shared spaces can contain our own passions, even if they only do so fleetingly. It's still a window into somebody.