Reinventing the Wheel

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Although Italy’s economy is still suffering, the northern Italian design firm Experientia – headed by founding partner Jan-Christophe Zoels MID 93 ­­– has been working on a number of exciting projects near their home base and elsewhere around the world. According to Zoels, jobs taken on by the 30-person firm “are diverse but always involve deep integration of user research and service design.” Experientia’s designers recently worked with Intel on the future of healthcare services and launched a user-friendly ATM for Italy’s largest bank UniCredit. 

Among the most mindboggling projects Experientia is engaged in is one led by Amsterdam-based architectural firm UNStudio. Through the massive Giant Observation Wheel or Nippon Moon project, the two firms are giving the Ferris wheel its first major makeover since it was introduced in 1893. The project fuses architecture and digital media to create a wild ride for future users in a yet-to-be-named Japanese city.

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Rather than sitting in small, metal capsules, riders on the new wheel will board large, oblong, glass-enclosed pods enhanced with “augmented reality” technology that will allow them to communicate with riders in other pods and watch video images superimposed over the view outside. image

Each of the 32 pods will offer a different theme. After downloading a dedicated app for smartphones and tablets, users will be able to introduce animations and sounds that enhance the theme or initiate virtual realities using the pod’s walls. The rich, layered experience should keep riders busy as the giant wheel spins, taking a full 40 minutes to complete each rotation.