FUTURES Exhibit Sneak Peek: Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building Set to Re-Open With Robots, AI + Flying Cars
The Smithsonian Arts & Industries building - the lovely red-brick building next the Smithsonian Castle - has stood empty and quietly anonymous since 2004, but this weekend, the doors will be thrown open and everyone is invited! It will temporarily reopen—in honor of the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary—with “FUTURES, " an ambitious forward-focused exhibit with an epic opening weekend celebration from November 19 - 20.
AIB has championed innovation since it first opened in 1881. Known as the Palace of Invention, it showcased Edison's electric light bulb before Congress or the White House; displayed a pair of space rockets outside its entrance during construction of the National Air and Space Museum and displayed a moon rock months after the lunar landing.
The past meets "what's next?" as Its newest exhibit asks us to imagine what the future could look like. It doesn't prescribe answers (that would be impossible after all); instead the exhibit is about igniting our collective curiosity to dream bigger. “What we’re trying to do in this exhibition is come not from a place of authority, but of curiosity,” says AIB director Rachel Goslin. “Our goal isn’t to educate you about something—it’s to help you ask informed questions and explore many different possible answers.”
There's a lot of tech, so interactivity is a big focus, but so too are the concepts of inclusivity and accessibility and how they'll influence how we'll live, work and play. As FUTURES shows, the future is for everyone, not just the one-percenters.
Here's a sneek peek at some of the 150 objects in the FUTURES exhibit.
It's incredible to know the FUTURES exhibit will be held in the same place that hosted President James A. Garfield inaugural ball in 1881 and where the floor is embedded with actual fossils.
AIB has a very World’s Fair-inspired history and FUTURES is a modern riff on that with its massive open halls, one-of-a-kind items, as well as hard-to-categorize prototypes and performances.
Meet Roomie! Roomie was developed by a Mexican technology company to offer therapeutic treatment—one of its many capabilities. It can detect symptoms and also converse using natural language processing software. During the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time of necessary social distancing, Roomie helped relieve loneliness and isolation among hospital patients. You can ask Roomie questions and its specially trained AI will answer them. Roomie can only answer pre-programmed questions, but it has quite a sassy personality. We want one!
Taxi! Your future rideshare and personal cars fly through the air with the greatest of ease if this conceptual Nexus Air Taxi Prototype from Bell turns into the real deal. It's designed to fly vertically, allowing it to operate in congested areas. Do you think Uber/Lyft will have an app for this in the future? Fittingly, the Spirit of Saint Louis airplane was displayed at AIB in the 1930s, showing that our fascination with air travel is a continuing phenomenon.
Engineer Dava Newman's prototype spacesuit developed with NASA, MIT and the aerospace industry. Unlike the traditional, bulky, one-size-fits-all models, it is closely fitted. It uses stretchy polymers to permit a full range of motion and fit a wider range of users, both male and female.
Are you ready to travel from NYC to DC in 30 minutes instead of four hours by car? Buckle up!
This emerging Hyperloop transportation technology, originally proposed by Elon Musk, uses a sealed tube system to transport high-speed vessels at more than 600 miles per hour! Encounter the Pegasus in full 360 degrees, peer inside its Bjarke Ingels-designed futuristic interior, and learn more about the technology that can transport people or cargo at airline speeds with zero direct emissions—all enabled by a magnetic levitation system in a near vacuum.
Interactivity plays a major role in FUTURES. One of the most intriguing items looks like a giant Snuggie or one of Dr. Who's odd sci-fi creatures. Called “Doing Nothing with AI.” the installation by Emanuel Gollob helps stressed-out people meditate by reading brain activity and wiggling accordingly. Moving all about to see how it will react is strangely addictive.
The FUTURES exhibit isn't about just technology though. AIB was founded to honor the arts and industries that were powering America; and the exhibit honors that legacy with five, site-specific artworks by contemporary artists who speculate about what could lie ahead through various media.
Soo Sunny Park's installation envelops the buildings exterior in an iridescent cloud, welcoming you another world as imagined by the exhibit inside. She used a material invented by NASA that reflects light differently based on weather, times of day and the spot from which it is viewed.
"The Grove" is artist Devan Shimoyama's response to tumult and tragedy brought on by racial violence. Wrapping towering utility poles decorated in thousands of Swarovski crystals and using found materials such as dangling shoes, and silk flowers, “The Grove” references community traditions of spontaneous memorials and also plays with themes of the effect of gentrification on urban communities. What does the future hold for communities? Will they all be shiny and new or will existing places be appreciated for the natural beauty that can be found if you look?
Are you ready to see what the future holds?
FUTURES” will be open Nov. 20, 2021 – July 6, 2022; Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. (closed Tuesday), with extended weekend hours on Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Admission will be free, and no timed tickets are currently required.
Curious? There's More!
Look up, down, and all around. Adventures can be found everywhere -- if you're curious enough to look. k for it