Official Inauguration of the Ming Shan Digital Experience

By November 2, 2021 November 4th, 2021 News, Uncategorized

Official Inauguration of the Ming Shan Digital Experience

Evolution of living spaces, performance pressure: our physical and mental world is becoming denser. The digital world overloaded with information echoes this. How to promote well-being in the face of this increased stress?

The EPFL+ECAL Lab, the design research centre of EPFL, unveiled in Bullet (Vaud) on Tuesday, 2 November the result of its research and innovation partnership with Ming Shan, the first Taoist centre in Europe: an immersive installation capable of promoting meditation by generating light and sound from body signals. Science, technology and design combine with a multi-millennial culture to respond to a social challenge. Recently honoured by the Siggraph World Conference in Los Angeles, the project is also one of the finalists for the Swiss Design Prize.

The story seems almost surreal, out of time. At 1,200 metres above sea level, near the ridges of the Jura Mountains in the Canton of Vaud, the new lay Taoist centre Ming Shan towers above the clouds. At the end of the courtyard is the temple. Inside, three traditional statues of immortals face three contemporary circles of light. Technology, design and science come together here with a culture, philosophy and practices whose roots go back more than 2,000 years. After three years of research, creation and experimentation, the Ming Shan Digital Experience set-up dedicated to meditation has been officially inaugurated. It is now part of the practices of this site open to the public, as the EPFL+ECAL Lab delivers its research findings.

The circle of light gives the impression of floating above a very sober wooden seat. Each of the three stations welcomes a participant for a meditation session. The intensity of light, rhythms and colours change during meditation depending on the physiological parameters of the participants, such as breathing or heart rate. This so-called “multimodal biofeedback” system thus acts in real time, in a customized manner, on the phases of concentration and relaxation essential to such a practice.

The initial observations carried out in China made it possible to take an additional step: to address the collective dimension of meditation. To meet this challenge, each station acts like a musical instrument, emitting vibrations inspired by traditional sounds. The installation thus adds to the individual support a collective resonance through a soundscape also generated in real time from body signals. The perception of a meditation session finally extends to the temple’s architecture with a translation of the signals into animated visual representations projected around the statues. This threefold impact – individual, collective and spatial – is a world first.

The collaboration between the Ming Shan Centre and the EPFL+ECAL Lab required in-depth work to understand, compare and associate the codes and references of Taoism, one of the founding cultures of meditation, with knowledge of the contemporary disciplines of science and design. The collaboration made it possible to conduct a study on the impact of this device, according to validated research protocols in psychology. The knowledge acquired now opens unprecedented horizons for acting on our well-being. They foreshadow reactive furniture concepts dedicated to our daily lives, as well as a capacity for action in spaces highly densified by evolving light inputs.

The resulting publication just received international recognition at the Siggraph 2021 conference. The Design Prize Switzerland selected the project among its three finalists in the furniture category. Verdict on 5 November!

CREDITS

Direction
Nicolas Henchoz

MAS in Design Research for Digital Innovation
Margaux Charvolin

Art Direction & Project Management
Lara Défayes

Software Engineering
Delphine Ribes, Yves Kalberer

Hardware & Firmware Engineering, Sound Design
Dr. Cédric Duchêne

Industrial Design
Mathieu Girel, Béatrice Durandard

UX/UI Psychology
Dr. Andreas Sonderegger

Photography
Daniela & Tonatiuh / EPFL+ECAL Lab

PARTNERS

Main Partner
Ming Shan Taoist Centre

Scientific Partners
CSEM, Signal Processing & Control Systems Group
Applied signal processing group, EPFL
Psychology institute, University of Fribourg

With the support of Canton de Vaud

Romain Collaud

Romain Collaud

Romain is an Art Director living in Fribourg, Switzerland. In 2013, he received a BA in visual communication from ECAL & in 2017, earned a MAS in design research for digital innovation from the EPFL+ECAL Lab.