Open Futurelab at Ars Electronica Festival 2020

FL_Website_OpenFuturelab2020_Exhibition_2000x1000, Credt: Ars Electronica Futurelab

The Ars Electronica Futurelab is a laboratory and atelier for future systems. As the think-and-do tank of the Ars Electronica, and at the interface of art, technology, and society, it creates future visions, which are realized for the public, together with cooperation partners from the fields of business, culture, research, and education.

Every year during the Ars Electronica Festival, the Ars Electronica Futurelab opens its gates for the public and invites festival visitors to get to know its latest research findings and collaborative projects in a special, interactive format called Open Futurelab. During this year’s festival, Open Futurelab will not only host physical exhibitions and talks in Linz, but also various experimental projects online to deepen discussions on how to envision the future for the new conditions facing humanity.

In this blog post, we want to give you an overview of what you can expect from this year’s Open Futurelab and how, when and where you can take part. However, if you are interested in a more detailed program, you can head over to the Open Futurelab 2020 page for more info:

Open Futurelab Exhibition Guided Tours

On-site location: Ars Electronica Center and Ars Electronica Futurelab, see program schedule and booking info

The Open Futurelab Exhibition showcases the current research interests and projects by the Ars Electronica Futurelab. On each festival day, members of the Ars Electronica Futurelab will offer 45-minute long guided tours through the offices of the laboratory which for the time of the festival are transformed into an exhibition and demonstration space and exclusively accessible to the general public. This is one of the few programs that will not be streamed online, so make sure to book your ticket right here!

You will not only get a look at what is “underneath the stairs” next to the Ars Electronica Center, but also get a sneak peek into the development process of some brand new-projects:

Future Ink Project

The Future Ink Open Lab offers an exclusive look into the ongoing collaboration between Ars Electronica Futurelab and Wacom, the world’s leader in pen tablets. The Future Ink Project experiments with concepts like Space Ink, AI Ink, Bio Ink, Body Ink, and Mind Ink. If you want to experience drones painting with light, schedule your visit to the laboratory during the Festival really fast, as this is an absolute highlight!


Ever wondered what watching TV would feel like with vertical screens? We’ve got you covered! As one of its research projects from Beyond the Frame – 8K Future Projects, Ars Electronica Futurelab and NHK, the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation, are currently exploring this very topic in Cascade and transforming landscape mode viewing experiences into portrait mode viewing experiences.

Social Telepresence

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic and its effects on society, Ars Electronica Futurelab will exhibit two Social Telepresence projects, focusing on new ways on how to enrich one-to-one conversation, meetings of small groups and big gatherings over distance. If you notice a red door somewhere around the Ars Electronica stairs, you might want to have a look inside and find out what’s in there.

Ars Electronica Futurelab Ideas Expedition

The Ars Electronica Futurelab Ideas Expedition is an internal competition intended to creatively explore the technological and social circumstances of our time. Introduced in 2020, the Ideas Expedition encourages the laboratory’s team members to use their creativity and expertise for developing ideas for future projects. During the Open Futurelab Exhibition , some of the projects granted in this competition will be presented to the public for the very first time.

Key Research Topics

Besides its projects, Ars Electronica Futurelab as an R&D institution is currently focusing on several research topics, ranging from Artificial Collectives and Robotic Origami, over Co-Immersive Spaces and Algorithmic Apperception all the way over to Creative Intelligence, Art Thinking, Digital Resonance and Poetic Systems. All of the topics will be presented during the Ars Electronica Festival 2020.

Open Futurelab Online Program

For the first time ever, some of the Open Futurelab content is broadcasted live via four Festival streaming channels. Don’t miss this program that you don’t even have to move away from your couch for!

Ars Electronica Futurelab at Ars Electronica Festival 2020: Opening Talk

Online: Wed Sep 9, 2020, 3:15 pm – 3:45 pm at Ars Electronica Selection Channel

In this opening talk, the directors of the Ars Electronica Futurelab, Horst Hörtner, Roland Haring and Hideaki Ogawa, will talk about the role of the Ars Electronica Futurelab, its current research topics and projects as well as what you can expect at Open Futurelab this year.

Ars Electronica Futurelab Creative Question Challenge (CQC)

The Ars Electronica Futurelab Creative Question Challenge (CQC) is a new brainstorming format in which speakers with different backgrounds explore and present creative questions in a 30-minute dialogue. In the new, uncertain future of our everyday lives, there is a need for a space to discuss the essential questions for the future, rather than the easy solutions to problems. During the Ars Electronica Festival 2020, four Futurelab CQCs will be streamed live, including the following topics:

Art – Governance: Online: Thu Sep 10, 2020, 3:15 pm – 3:45 pm at Ars Electronica Selection Channel
Future Ink: Online: Fri Sep 11, 2020, 11:00 pm – 11:30 am at Ars Electronica New World Channel
Art – Education: Online: Sat Sep 12, 2020, 3:15 pm – 3:45 pm at Ars Electronica Selection Channel
Art – Technology – Innovation: Online: Sat Sun 13, 2020, 3:15 pm – 3:45 pm at Ars Electronica Selection Channel

Journey to Oribotics Atelier of Ars Electronica Futurelab Key Researcher Matthew Gardiner

Online: Thu Sep 10, 2020, 3:45 pm – 4:00 pm at Ars Electronica Selection Channel

Ars Electronica Futurelab’s work goes beyond borders. Our journey to the Atelier of Matthew Gardiner, key researcher at the Ars Electronica Futurelab in the field of Origami Robotics (Oribotics), proves this and takes on a personal tone within his main studio workshop. The basic problem of finding new ways to engage audiences occupies Gardiner’s line of thought while guiding us through the circumstance and development of his latest works.

Journey to Creative Discussions: Future Humanity Journey

Online: Fri Sep 11, 2020, 11:30 am at Ars Electronica Selection Channel

The Future Humanity Journey is an experimental workshop in which four innovators create a scenario of future humanity to better understand how humanity will develop and evolve. Their discussions range from global-scale issues to subtle daily joy, which is integrated into a short film that shows an imaginary day in 2040. The final scenario and video that present the highlights of the session will be shared at the festival.

Journey to Future Ink Open Lab

Online: Wed Sep 9, 2020, 3:15 pm – 3:45 pm at Ars Electronica Selection Channel

If you cannot come to the Open Futurelab Exhibition to see drones paint with light, the Future Ink Open Lab will come to you! As part of the Future Ink Project, Space Ink combines Wacom’s pen and tablet technology with Ars Electronica Futurelab’s advanced drone technology called Spaxels, to envision a future where we can draw in any space with a pen.

Open Futurelab at other locations

Some of the Ars Electronica Futurelab’s projects are just too big to be kept inside the laboratory. Apart from the laboratory’s offices, you will get to experience some of the Ars Electronica Futurelab’s projects at other locations like the Johannes Kepler University and the Ars Electronica Center Deep Space 8K:


On-site location: Ars Electronica Center’s Deep Space 8K, see schedule and booking info
Online: Sun Sep 13, 2020, 3:15 pm – 3:25 am pt Ars Electronica Selection Channel

Inspired by topics like climate change, globalization, energy consumption and the recent COVID-19 crisis which taught us about infection chains and represents a powerful example of how societal collaboration and individual actions can change the world for the better or the worse, Deepandemia aims to visualize (and gamify) the consequences of such actions. The project team’s hope is to encourage the visitors to think, discuss and take action in the real world by visualizing the causes and effects of different scenarios.


On-site location: Ars Electronica Center’s Deep Space 8K, see schedule and booking info

Immersify, one of Ars Electronica Futurelab’s most recent projects and an European R&D consortium made up of international partners, has been dedicated to current and future challenges that immersive media entail. Some of the content produced in the project will be showcased during festival:
The translucent St. Stephen’s Cathedral: Online: Sat Sep 12, 2020, 4:15 pm – 4:40 pm at Ars Electronica Selection Channel
The Meeting Point – 8K Stream from Immersive Multimedia Labs at PSNC:
Online: Thu Sep 10, 2020, 10:00 am – 10:25 am at Ars Electronica Voyages Channel
Lost in Resolution – 16K Video and 3D Audio Playback for Large-Screen Immersive Spaces:
Online: Thu Sep 10, 2020, 11:00 am – 11:25 am at Ars Electronica Voyages Channel

CoBot Studio

On-site location: LIT Robopsychology Lab, Johannes Kepler University Linz, see program schedule and booking info

If you think that robots cannot and will never understand humans, your view might change when watching this project installation: CoBot Studio is a research initiative in which experts from various fields, including robotics, psychology, virtual reality, game design, media arts, artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, and safety work together towards the common goal of human-centred collaborative robotics. At this year’s festival at the Johannes Kepler University, in the production halls of Rubberduck Inc., an industrial robot’s communication signals have to be interpreted and rubber ducks have to be sorted. With this little installation, we are looking at how understanding between humans and robots works.

Virtual Anatomy – Preview of the JKU MedSPACE

On-site location: Fulldome / VR & AR Lab, Johannes Kepler University Linz, see program schedule and details

The Johannes Kepler University Linz (JKU) is currently constructing a modern, future-oriented multi-purpose learning space at the JKU Faculty of Medicine’s new medical education and research building called JKU medSPACE. It is modelled after the Ars Electronica Center’s Deep Space 8K and scheduled to open in 2021. Top use-case scenarios in the Virtual Anatomy Room include high quality, vivid and photo-realistic visualizations of medical information, such as MRIs and CT scans, for educational and training purposes. A short demonstration of the content usually available to students, and the Cinematic Rendering process developed by Siemens Healthineers, which lays behind the visualization, will be presented multiple times during the festival.

There’s more!

Additionally, Ars Electronica Futurelab’s members are involved in some of the program highlights like the Big Concert Night, the AIxMusic Festival, an Art Thinking Forum and various AI installations across different location. You can browse the whole program offered at Open Futurelab this year on the Ars Electronica Futurelab’s website. Join us on this journey either via the live streams or book your festival ticket on the Ars Electronica Festival website. See you there!

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