Interaction Lab

A hand holds a small cardboard prototype in front of a wall covered in drawings and notes

The Interaction Lab is a lab without walls—a new kind of R&D space—where we’re reimagining the museum experience for the 21st Century. Designed to keep pace with emergent technology and untethered to any one location or platform, we’re bringing a holistic, interactive design methodology to the very heart of Cooper Hewitt’s visitor experience—across digital, physical, and human interactions.

To do that, we’re living our mission as a design museum, creating a space for design as a living process, as we tackle our own design challenges openly and transparently, inviting visitors to co-create and test out ideas with us. Rather than calling ourselves an innovation lab, we’ve opted to focus on the interaction as the most essential unit of engagement with our visitors, conscious that an entire visitor experience is the sum of many interactions across platforms.

The Lab’s key output is a reimagined Cooper Hewitt visitor experience. Working in an open and participatory process, we will develop, iterate, and test prototypes with audiences inside our galleries, and optimize successful products for wider rollout. We will host gatherings of thinkers and practitioners across creative, technology, and cultural disciplines; offer public programs that engage audiences as collaborators; launch design challenges and commissions; develop digital and physical products and services; and generate thought leadership on evolving visitor experience in the museum sector—all of which will be shared widely and openly with the public.

We will be actively and openly documenting our progress as we create opportunities for new kinds of interactions, test out new and emerging technologies, and glean critical visitor insights, sharing learnings through public programs, workshops, publications, and conferences.

Creative commissioning is one of the most important ways the Interaction Lab brings new ideas into the museum. Check out the Lab’s inaugural Open Call for Proposals for Activating Smithsonian Open Access, a challenge that will award up to six finalists with $10,000 to build prototypes of interactive tools using some of the 3 million plus 2D and 3D image assets made available under a creative commons license. Thanks to the support of Verizon 5G Labs, the Interaction Lab will be accepting proposals from January 26, 2021 until February 23, 2021 at 11:59pm eastern time.

Learn more about the challenge and submit a proposal!

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