Dynamicland does the whole building of the computer

Occasionally there is a research project that has the potential to completely shake the computer and what it even means to interact with a system. The project Dynamicland.org, is a result of [Bret Victor]’s research journey over the years, explored various aspects of human computer interaction and what it all means for think as a human being.

One of the overhead projectors attached to a realbox
In Realtalk, paper is your programming medium

Dynamicland is an instantaneous one Honest talk ecosystem, inserted in an entire building. Tables are used as computer surfaces with physical objects, such as pieces of paper, notebooks, everything that can be read by one of the overlying cameras, becomes the program guide as well as the user interface. The camera is connected to a projector, where the hardware itself is connected to so-called ‘Realboxes’, which are Linux machines that run the Realtalk software. Separate Realboxes (and other hardware such as a Raspberry Pi running Realtalk) are all connected together using the Realtalk protocol, which allows communication from hardware in the attic, to anyone on the desktop and also to other desktops and computer surfaces.

Realtalk itself is described as an environment for creating and using computing media. The Realtalk system provides a linguistic extension to Lua. Together, these form one domain-specific language. Realtalk is also a kind reactive database, which means that the emphasis is on the data flow and connections between data-producing things and data-consuming things. For a little more explanation of how reactive programming can be used with modern relational databases, check out this article on the subject.

For a good overview of how this works in practice, from a programming perspective, checkout [Omar Rizwan]’s article about his ‘Geokit’ project. Another interesting read is the work of [AndrĂ©s Cuervo.]

Dynamicland is an active research project that was influenced by Covid. Clearly, it’s all about the human-to-human interface, learning and collaboration, using the building to implement the computing flows. Covid closed the physical building, which is why the Twitter account looks a bit dead. We contacted [Bret] regarding project status, and he responded very quickly that the team has been active during the shutdown, which implemented the next revision of Dynamicland, and the latest version is now used by the community. He pointed us to the project 501 (c) (3) narrative which describes the ethos behind the project. Finally, the project’s twitter is the place to see what’s going on, so it’s worth checking out. We leave it to [Bret] to get the last word:

that is what is impossible to convey @ dynamicland1

– what looks like “demos” or “projects” in these tweets is actually just the remaining scrap paper from conversation, discussion, exploration, play, fun, riffing in the right place in real time with real people

Thanks [Jay] to the tip!

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