Magyar Telekom's innovation lab, Kitchen Budapest (KiBu), opened in June 2007, is a new media lab for young researchers who are interested in the convergence of mobile communication, online communities and urban space and are passionate about creating experimental projects in cross-disciplinary teams.
Intrigued by an article by Régine Debatty, I decided to set aside some time during a visit to the Hungarian capital last week, to pay it a visit.
The 30 person lab is located in a quiet side street off a very pleasant shopping street, and feels very different from the bars, clothing shops and tanning salons around the corner.
KiBu tries to be maximally creative with its small budget of Magyar Telekom. Led by a team of 5-6 people, the other 25 are young students and professionals (some even still in high school) who work at the lab for a limited time.
The projects that people will be working on are selected together, and nobody ever works alone: collaboration is a ground rule. Most projects are proposed by the researchers themselves, but some, like the one pictured above, are for clients (usually Magyar Telekom itself).
The website provides an overview of the many projects that were presented to me. They can be roughly grouped in four areas -- mobile expressions, intelligent things, DIY media, and social machines -- and include such lovely weirdness as Animata, a real-time animation software for live performance with virtual puppets; Breath Fairies, a tool to visualise the fairies within our breath; Bycall, a bicycle alarm, which transmits warning sign from the bicyclist to radio stations in cars; Landprint, a tool to print on grass; Hímes, a USB key jewel; Kupica, a bluetooth enabled drinking glass that tells when it's empty; Nighmo, an interactive lighting system; Mllamp, an emotionally enabled desk lamp; and an extremely low-tech multi touch wall.
The Kibu'ers are extremely informed about what is going on in the field (Arduino boards are all over), and present wherever they can, including at Transmediale in Berlin, the 100% Design Festival Tokyo, and the LIFT conference of course.
The KiBu presentation ran on the impressive Prezi software, a Beta application created by a KiBu spin-off.
Check also KiBu's One Year book (pdf -28 mb), which includes all of its projects: mobile expressions, intelligent and charming things, dynamic media interfaces, community technologies and workshops. A few photos of my visit can be found here.
KiBu is very international and some readers might be interested that the organisation is currently offering guest researcher positions for dedicated professionals, artist, engineers, interested in the convergence of new media and actual spaces, cultural experiences, new communities, and are highly motivated to create such projects in teams.