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Ray Interactive

Interactive Art & Design

Ray Interactive is an interactive art and design studio based in Edinburgh, with a focus on generative design, creative coding and live interactive experiences.

They are the successful Challenge Respondents to a Creative Informatics Challenge Project set by New Media Scotland, who are looking to develop an immersive cinema toolkit that combines software, Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, and expertly curated data to enable venue managers, exhibitors and promoters to present bespoke cinematic content to new and existing audiences.

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Q&A with Ray Interactive

Who are you and what do you do?
We are Ray, an interactive art and design studio based at Lavatown in Leith. Lavatown is a co-working space shared with others working in various combinations of tech and creativity. Ray’s focus is on multimedia installations and data visualisation. Our site shows some of our completed work to date but we have some new and exciting projects in development at the moment: 3D visualisations using satellite imaging data, an artwork for Aberdeen Music hall made possible by Alt-W and an interactive installation for The Enchanted Forest.

How have developments in technology over the last few years changed the scope and possibilities of your work?
We’re a relatively young company, having pivoted to creative tech about a year ago. But even in that short time we’ve witnessed some amazing breakthroughs. In the mainstream, computing power that was pure science fiction a decade ago is now available and affordable. At the cutting edge, the next generation of graphics hardware is on the cusp of delivering movie-grade rendering quality in real time, a major disruption in our field of interactive digital art. And we’ve just seen a demonstration of animated 3D holography, which is pretty mind blowing.

Who do you take inspiration from in making creative/artistic work from data?
Among our heroes are Future Wife (New York), Ouchhh (Istanbul), Stamen (San Francisco), Tobias Gremmler (Hong Kong), and Marshmallow Laser Feast (London). In idiosyncratic fashion, each is blazing a new trail through interactive and data art, without ever sacrificing aesthetic integrity for technological innovation or vice versa. They’re all equal parts febrile artistic genius and analytical supernerd, which is as it should be.

What makes a good team for a data-driven creative project?
Artistic geniuses and supernerds. The old, never-actually-true opposition of art and science is more obsolete now than ever. Whether it’s achieved by inventive programming, deft brushstrokes, or (most likely) a combination of the two, the end result – a spectacle that entertains, informs and provokes thought – is all that matters. We tend to have eureka moments in the oddest circumstances. Often a pedestrian solution to a technical problem becomes the seed of the next project’s biggest hook.

What excites you about Edinburgh’s creative community at the moment?
It’s thriving like never before! The countless festivals go from strength to strength, but even in the subcategory of creative tech, there’s so much activity it’s hard to keep up. There’s Creative Informatics of course, but also the City Region Deal DDI Programme, Codebase, Creative Edinburgh, Brendan Hill’s Data Visualisation Meetup, Move Summit… The city is small enough for there to be a ‘village’ of stakeholders where everyone knows everyone else, but its institutions – the universities, the museums and galleries, the venues – are world-class.

How important is R&D in the creative industries?
It’s essential. Technology is not a wall between you and inspiration: it’s a door to it. The more you research and assimilate new concepts, new software and new techniques, the broader your mind can range in its search for ideas.

And things change so fast that what was overambitious a few years ago could be eminently achievable now. For example, the relatively recent innovation of using GPUs (graphics processing units) to keep track of evolving systems like particles and fluids has opened up a new world of eye-popping visuals that weren’t feasible in real time with CPUs alone.

Take your eye off the ball at your peril.