Lab

The ad industry demands originality, so to keep our clients ahead of the game we invent digital genius from complex cloud platforms to robotics and virtual reality. Throw us a problem and we’ll chew on it until we have something truly innovative.

Scape & UNStudio | RESET

Salone del Mobile in Milan is the biggest design and furnishing exposition, combining innovation and forecasting while showcasing the best international work and ideas. Every year a part of this grand exposition is dedicated to design and technology on the work floor, with this years theme being ‘Workspace 3.0 – A Joyful Sense at Work.

The ‘Workspace 3.0’ exhibition is curated by Cristina Cutrona and presents the 4 best projects who look at the work place in an innovative way. The year our Lab’s interactive installation ‘ RESET’ (Responsive Emotional Transformation) is featured in collaboration with UNStudios and Scape.

The RESET pods are designed to decrease the stress levels in the workplace. Stress is becoming a more frequent problem, putting a strain on the quality of work and life. These workspaces (pod’s) tackle the users stress levels by approaching it in several ways, based on the neurological research of Dr. Teresa de Sanctis (PhD Neuroscientist). The concept is created by Amsterdam based Scape and designed by UNStudios. Our Lab and Sound teams are responsible for the technical and creative realisation of these pods. During the design process a strong focus goes to the importance of

architecture and design in creating physical, social and psychological healthy spaces.

For Salone del Mobile two of the five prototype workspaces are developed. The ‘Intimacy’ pod has a vivacious approach and creates a meditative atmosphere, which is in contrary to the ‘Sound’ pod that has an expressive setting and an interactive approach.

Controlled by your heart rhythm 

The small floating spaces take the user on a short abstract journey controlled by the information provided through the EEG monitor (electric signals in your brain) and the user’s heart rhythm. Visually the spaces are surrounded by an abundance of colours combining light and darker spots. The visual stimulant is combined with compatible music simultaneously defining the experience. The colours and music are controlled by the data received through the bluetooth EEG set and heart monitor. This information is processed to control the LED and music installation surrounding the pod, making each experience unique and personal. This data is stored in the cloud, giving the employer the opportunity to use this new input to improve the workplace to a less stressful environment.

The Intimacy pod takes you on a relaxing journey, the Sound pod does the opposite. The second pod needs interaction through drum sets and brighter points to trigger

the music and visuals. The pods are equipped with a Kinect sensor that follows every movement and translates these movements to new currents of music and colours. The music is composed by Joep Meijburg, one of our in-house composers and sound designers.

An organic feeling

The music of these pods is a combination between a soundscape and musical tones, explains Meijburg. “Together with Diederik Veelo, Head of Innovation, I looked for sounds that are calming but fit different heart rhythms. When the user has a fast heart rhythm, more dissonant tones stimulate a

calming mood. I started off recording acoustic instruments, which I later estranged with the Eurorack module. This creates an abstract but still musical sound. The module uses a sound, slows it down and subsequently plays bytes and manipulates these. Because the source is acoustic the organic feeling stays without becoming distant.”

To align the music, visuals and technique the pods are first built in virtual reality (VR) during the test phase. This is an interesting new purpose, using VR rather as a tool in the design process than the end result. By building the pods in VR during the design phase the interaction can be measured in real time and therefore improved at any moment.

Lowlands | The Smartphone Orchestra

Sunday, 21 August marked The Smartphone Orchestra’s world premiere at renowned music festival Lowlands. Using their smartphones, thousands of Lowlands visitors collectively created a single, monumental work of music, composed especially for this occasion: a musical piece with every smartphone making its own unique contribution, thanks to sophisticated technology and an entirely new method of composition.

Ambassadors Lab was able to pitch in with an important piece of technology it had created several years ago, which is called TimeSync. TimeSync is a web technology that allows devices and webbrowsers to accurately sync its time to a server with millisecond accuracy, regardless of the type of internet connection. Once a sync is established, instructions can be broadcasted from one device to the other allowing them to act like one synchronised network of devices, or in this case: one large orchestra.

Together with The Smartphone Orchestra team Ambassadors Lab has perfected the service and stress tested it to a whopping 2000 devices. The beauty of TimeSync is that it opens up many opportunities from installations like The Smartphone Orchestra, to games and synchronised interactive mobile experiences.

Minimal music

The piece played at Lowlands is loosely inspired on minimal music, in which various patterns form a bigger whole when put together. Where traditionally musical instruments form the building blocks of a composition, in this case the ringtones and

notification beeps of smartphones are the key ingredients. Following several test sessions at Oerol, with Spinvis, and at the Sonár Festival in Barcelona with Brian Eno nodding in approval, it was now time for the official premiere at Lowlands.

Steye Hallema, initiator of The Smartphone Orchestra:

‘The smartphone is literally getting more and more “under our skin”. It makes a lot of things much easier, and I also make use of the advantages it offers. However, I regularly ask myself if it is healthy for us to be continually overloaded with information. Our brain also needs to be able to daydream and to “tune out”. This is why we wanted to reverse the operation of the smartphone and use it to get people to come together and share a wonderful experience. We are very proud that we were able to achieve something on this scale at the Netherlands’ most pioneering pop festival. It was an experience that I, in any case, will not quickly forget!’

Terre des Hommes | Amani

Created with a tailor-made 3D-printed camera rig, 14 cameras and a hands-on team, the ambitious campaign from the international human rights charity invites the viewer to experience a day in the life of Amani – a young Kenyan girl whose daily struggles include child labour, physical violence and sexual abuse.

The striking campaign is the charity’s first high-profile activity since producing multi award-winning, Cannes Grand Prix winner Sweetie. It aims to shed light on everyday child abuse which is often invisible to the outside world. In order to make the hidden visible and communicate a powerful message in an engaging way, Ambassadors Lab had to push the boundaries of existing techniques.

On the 5th of may 2015 we unveiled a state-of-the-art VR experience for Terre Des Hommes. With an Oculus Rift and a pair of headphones, the powerful story of a 12-year old Kenyan girl is brought to life in chilling 3D VR.

By offering the audience a 3D experience in a 360-degree environment, the campaign redefines cinematic storytelling for a new medium where the user takes a passive role at the heart

of the action.

Every element, from the camera rig to the software, had to be prototyped and tailored, utilising cutting-edge technology and innovation.

Diederik Veelo, Founder, The Ambassadors LAB, says: “We designed, prototyped and printed a camera rig that holds 14 individual cameras that not only record 360-degrees around you, but also captures the entire scene in 3D.

In order to record sound in 3D as well, we fitted the camera

with 5 additional microphones. The sound was then mixed in surround sound to immerse the viewer into an even richer environment.

Combining these tools with a cinematic approach, you create an emotional experience new to any audience.”

The virtual experience, launched at a Dutch Liberation day Festival in The Hague, can also be downloaded as an app for people to view on their mobile devices. The four-minute film will also be available online, to view in both 2D and 3D.

KLM | World Business Class

How do you control an Ipad app without touching the screen?

This was the challenge the Ambassadors Lab faced when creating an iPad application for KLM, commissioned by DDB Amsterdam. The Lab created a custom bluetooth module which was built into fifteen columns to be placed around the world.

Initially DDB asked the Lab to develop an iPad application that could play a short film. The iPad would be built into a column, using what is called a HoloSlide and had to be controlled by a physical button. It developed into an iPad application that could play up to 55 films and could be controlled with eleven wireless buttons.

The challenge was to control the application using real buttons, as the iPad was build in and touching the screen was not an option. So the Lab developed a small bluetooth module that could transmit button presses wirelessly to the application.

The application starts as soon as one of the buttons is pressed or the power is turned on. Another challenge was to put the iPad into sleep modus when the power was shut off. This turned out to be more difficult than expected, but eventually the Lab was able to escape Apple’s tight grip to pull it of.

In the end we built fifteen bluetooth modules (including the buttons), and we delivered eighteen iPads with the specially deleveloped application.

WNF | Nature Is Us

WNF shows us 50 ways of passing on the earth to the next generation. Nature is not just something in the distance – nature, that’s you and me. Bram van Alphen directed a dreamlike and intimate film, where the beauty of nature and humanity merge into one.

Advertising agency Selmore approached us in September 2011 with this exciting new idea. A young woman would close her eyes, and as a tear would slowly roll down her cheek, flora would sprout up like a river in its riverbed. As her tears are rolling down over her chest a lively world of plants, flowers and butterflies emerges.

Technical challenge

Apart from the 3D animation and rendering there was one main challenge for which we had to

A wonderful concept with beautiful imagery and symbolism, but with quite some challenges as well. Apart from the 3D animation and rendering there was one main challenge for which we had to find a solution: tracking. To attach the flora to her body we would need a very solid track, which meant we

would have to cover her body with tracking markers. Tracking markers usually suffer from mainly three obstacles, of which all of them were found in our commercial:

  1. Retouching. Removing those markers in post is often a long painstaking process. The subtle gradients combined with the texture of the skin makes it almost impossible, especially when it would be completely covered in markers.
  2. Extreme lighting. The dim lighting with a lot of silhouettes formed another problem in tracking. It meant that at least half of our markers would find themselves in complete darkness, where as only a small subset of the markers would remain visible. As our model would be moving those markers would slide in and out of the light.
  3. Depth of Field. Because most of the shots were meant to be shot with fairly long lenses we would be faced with a very small depth of field. Our tracking markers would be shot partly out of focus, which would make tracking harder.

Back at the studio the first tracking tests on the infrared images were very positive and it was clear that we had found the right solution to our problem. With all these obstacles it was clear that we had to be smart about a solution. So we came up with the idea of using infrared light.

The idea is to shoot two images at the same time. The first one being the normal image and the second one being an infrared image. By using an invisible ink that absorbs infrared

light we are able to create tracking markers that are only visible on the infrared image and are invisible on the normal image. The tracking would be performed on top of the infrared images and later applied to the normal image.

The human eye is blind to infrared light, so to produce a life-like image most cameras are made blind to it as well. We had to start our search to find a suitable camera which could actually record an infrared image. We ended up with the Phantom camera for several reasons: there are various technical models of the phantom of which a few are very well capable of recording infrared light. The camera’s can both be pulse-locked to expose a frame at the exact same moment and they perform well in slow motion.

Together with Phantom camera operator Flip Bleekrode and Grip/Stereo specialist Luc Hoeijmakers we worked out the technical details, placed both cameras in a stereo rig and aligned them so they would shoot the exact same image. Our first tests came out mediocre. We had several types of ink, several types of infrared lights and filters, but finding the right mixture took some time. Since we were working in the blind, we couldn’t see the light ourselves except on the monitor, we had to carefully do the math. We had to calculate the frequencies in nanometers to carefully align the transmission and response peaks of both the camera, the ink the filters and the lights but once all was fine tuned it worked even better then we could have imagined.

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Scape & UNStudio | RESET

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