THE CROSSING ROJECT

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Asia Society, museum, New York, 2002.

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New tech eye glasses created by Ranjit Makkuni.
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THE CROSSING PROJECT

The world is the interface!

 

The project designed many physical computing browsers expressing, (and providing access to), the symbols and meanings of India’s city of light, Banaras (Kashi, Varanasi) at the Crossing Project: Living, Dying and Transformation in Banaras; exhibition at Asia Society, New York, 2002.

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Vision statement.

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The Crossing project, a multimedia exhibition shown across the world, was during 1998-2002/ and is today, a pioneering effort to unite the finest and the noblest in Indian tradition with the then, nascent multimedia and mobile computing technology.

 

The focus of the project was to create a unique idiom of Indian modernity where none of the streams of knowledge, technology or tradition were at variance, but integrated in a harmonious semblance. It is in this consciously innovated fusion that Banaras gets represented in a unique way, and the project becomes an important cultural preservation tool and a learning tool for all audiences.

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From dawn to dusk, Banaras' ghats hum with ritual activity.

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Winner
ID magazine
Design award, New York,
2002


Ars electronica, Austria,
2002

Ranjit Makkui, Installation drawing showing the recyclig of the elements, from the Crossing Project, 2000.

The Crossing. 

Banaras, Kashi, the oldest living city in the world, is described as a microcosm of Indian civilization. The multiple riches of Banaras invoke many different interpretations. The most significant of them is that Banaras is regarded as the greatest of all ‘tirthas’, Crossing Place, a ‘transitional zone’ to cosmic reality and a portal of spiritual liberation.

 

The unique context of its past and its living present makes Kashi the most appropriate subject for exploration for future technology, especially in conceiving and rooting the design of wearable and mobile computing devices, i.e. new forms of knowledge devices, based on and inspired by Banaras, Asia’s seat of spiritual and intellectual tradition.

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Shiva holds Kashi upon his trident.

Technology as a Cultural Bridge

Vision statement.

Explore the first AR lenses.

The Crossing project, in 1999-2002,
illustrated the pioneering shift from
‘black and beige’ metal and glass
based computing hardware to culturally
embedded, personalisable forms.
Technology as presented by the Crossing
project is not just seen as ‘technology’,
but as an extension and expression
of a community’s identity. Therefore,
technology itself becomes a
‘cultural bridge’.

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Research vision and presentation at National Gallery of Modern Art. 

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We always wondered what lies beyond the edge of a display screen. The 360º Display browser allows us to explore spaces beyond the rigid rectangles of display.

One can swivel the display to explore the panoramic view of Banaras’ river and temple-spired skyline. The browser presents the user with an experience of being situated in the middle of the Ganga river and exploring the panoramic view of the river.

Banaras' Ghats Browser
showing the panoramic views of Banaras

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Mythology box.

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Mythology Amulet

Explore one of the world's first e-books.

The interface between the city and the river consists of flights of steps known as ghats. The ghats stretch along the river for three miles in the shape of a crescent moon and create a continuous horizon. Banaras has 81 such places, which are depend by landscapes, temples, trees form of worship. Over time, each ghat has acquired its own place, specific myths, and together the ghats provide people with a powerful setting for self-transformation. Once the transformation has occurred, a pilgrim needs to remember the experience.

 

The Asi mythology box is an aid to remember the pilgrimage experience. Buttons on the box depict symbols of the ghat, mythology, rituals, allows people to play back images relating to rituals, places, place-specific symbols and interpretations of Asi ghat. Eventually, these boxes when miniaturized could become an electronic amulet that lets people connect to the sacred centers of mythology.

Clicking on the mythology box allows people to remember places and rituals on Asi ghat. e.g., the stepped wells of a Sun shrine.

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Explore one of the first AR lenses.

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Digital Lens on the Dashashwamedha Ghat

Information lens installation: A pioneering augmented reality interface presented as the deity Shiva’s eye. Through the gestures of sliding the ‘eye’ and positioning on hotspots on a mural behind, people can unravel the interpretation of the mural. From the Crossing Project: Living, Dying, and Transformation in Banaras, 2000.

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Explore one of the first AR lenses.

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The E-Mask is an attempt to combine “bits” and “beads”. Beads of a Chau Mask have been substituted by LED lights. Together, grids of LED lights create a display screen, which display the Mantras of the Goddess Ganga

The E-Pot allows users to access the creation myths describing the descent of Ganga from the heavens to the earth, the artistic interpretation of moods of the Ganga, as well as the discourse on whether nature bodies are a physical or psychical phenomenon. The interface is not purely a functional object. Like icons in traditional arts they serve as both a representation and extension of the object of interaction.

 

Moreover, in many ritual traditions, artists through carefully generated representations of iconometry trap nature’s energies. Many objects are related to subtle bodies, relating through correspondence ordinary tools to highest idealizations. Ganga first flowed in the heavens in her subtle forms before coming down to the earth..

Goddess Ganga 

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Explore the symbolism of the Goddess Ganges through e-Pots.

Vision statement.

SAVE THE GANGES!!

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E- Rickshaw

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Explore the landscapes of Banaras through the Cycle RIckshaw.

 

The visitor navigates the landscapes of Banaras through manipulating a Rickshaw’s steering wheel.

The e-rickshaw allows users to interact with rickshaw accessories to retrieve video images showing the rickshaw in Banaras, its streets, the geometry, and the love of the driver for his vehicle. The rickshaw stories on the streets of Banaras can be explored by steering the handle of a rickshaw.

Musical Wheel

One can strike a chord with the musical-scape of the city by plucking the spokes of the musical wheel. By combining properties of one physical media with another, through embedded computation users can explore physical morphing. Here the cycle wheel is transformed into musical instruments, the sitar and tabla, resonating Raga Malkauns. Associated with each spoke is a musical note, drum beat, musical or rythmic phrases, and plucking the rickshaw spoke allows people to explore sitar and tabla sounds and to collaboratively produce music.

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E-Jacket

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Explore some of the earliest eamples of wearable computing. 

 

Student clicks on her jacket to listen to ‘Mantras’ to Lord Shiva. Wearable computing allows pilgrims to carry their sacred city while on the move. The portable image, whether icons or prayer beads or amulets, addresses an important need found in all strata of society to connect to sacred centers. The body, song and the clothing are integrated in one gestural experience. From Crossing Project: Living, Dying, and Transformation in Banaras, 1998.

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Winner

ID magazine

Design award, New York,

2002

Ars electronica, Austria,

2002

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Symbols of
Lord Shiva

That which can be seen can also be felt. In the installation, the 14 emblems of Shiva’s yogic form are augmented with radio tags. Users hold an icon and touch a display screen to retrieve the image of a dancer explaining the inner meaning of the symbols of Shiva, such as his wisdom eye, crescent moon, his matted locks, serpent garland, tiger skin, etc.

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Book on Egg

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E-Shiva Egg. One of the world’s first ‘e-books’. Hotspots on the egg form allows people to access interpretations on the iconography of Shiva.

E- Egg, A Banaras map browser. 

E-Egg

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Mobile wireless information access device with the streets of Banaras engraved on the shell that will let people navigate through the narrow lanes of Banaras. The E-egg, whose form is derived from the form of the cosmic egg described in the ancient texts as well as in the form of the universe described by modern physicists, allows people to access the maps of Banaras engraved on its shell. Touching the engravings allows people to play back images of happiness and relaxation in the street of Banaras. From the Crossing Project: Living, Dying, and Transformation in Banaras, 1998.

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E-Damru &
E Linga

Mobile wireless information access device with the streets of Banaras engraved on the shell that will let people navigate through the narrow lanes of Banaras. The E-egg, whose form is derived from the form of the cosmic egg described in the ancient texts as well as in the form of the universe described by modern physicists, allows people to access the maps of Banaras engraved on its shell. Touching the engravings allows people to play back images of happiness and relaxation in the street of Banaras. From the Crossing Project: Living, Dying, and Transformation in Banaras, 1998.

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Button

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Child's  letter

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Electronic Media

BBC.

India TV

Z TV.

BBC.

India's Breakfast show!

One of the World's first presentations of Mobile computing, and first presentations asking India and Asia to re-question the form of a computer and the computer interface.

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The project made an impact in India and the world, provoking people to awaken from their intellectual and artistic complacency about the design of forms and experiences, and re-think how to reclaim one's 'culture' in a world that would eventually create homogenized expressions of automation, and in a world inundated by forms originating from the West, i.e., which are not rooted in the culture where technology is being used!.

Personalization in the info age, generally is limited to styling and modifying digital pages made for devices by digital oligarchs, and less about the democratic taming of /or the invention of indigenous physical hardware forms of information devices!

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Print Media

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Winner

ID magazine

Design award, New York,

2002

Ars electronica, Austria,

2002

AWARD REVIEW

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Credits

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(c) 1998-present, Ranjit Makkui, Sacred World Research/ Design Lab. 

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