A Love Letter to Vancouver: Minimal Viable Demos

Welcome to the story of Minimum Viable Demos (MVD), a badass convergence of creativity, technology, and community spirit in Vancouver. As an artist deeply embedded in the worlds of both traditional and digital media, I’ve seen firsthand the transformative power of community collaboration and innovation. MVD stands as a testament to these forces, a space where the boundaries between disciplines blur, and the magic of collective effort takes center stage.

Minimal Viable Demos graphics and promo – https://www.mvdemos.com/

The Origins of MVD

MVD’s journey began with Donald Jewkes, a dynamic force in Vancouver’s creative scene. Donald’s vision was to create a platform where artists, technologists, and scientists could not only showcase their work but also inspire and be inspired. His arrival in Vancouver marked the beginning of a series of community-driven initiatives that would eventually culminate in the creation of MVD.

Acknowledging the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people is fundamental to our mission. It’s a reminder of the rich cultural heritage and history that underpins our community.

The inception of MVD was a collaborative effort supported by key figures such as Boris Mann from DWeb YVR, who provided invaluable advice and resources.

Boris Mann on Bowen Island in the Bryght Era by Kris Krüg

Nick and Jamie from Golden Ventures offered significant support, while Kellen from Voyer Startup Law quickly aligned with the vision and helped navigate the legal intricacies. Community contributors like Adil, Johnny from zSpace Vancouver, and the AI Community from Future Proof Creatives played crucial roles in shaping the event. The Novus team, led by Leejoo and Manveer, alongside the Atelier team of Clo, Ananya, Rae of Sunshine, AydenBot and Soham, were instrumental in organizing and bringing the event to life.

The Philosophy of Demos

At the heart of MVD lies a simple yet profound philosophy: demos are win-win. Too often, events create one-sided transfers of attention and energy with little in return. We’ve all been to those endless networking sessions or panels where “experts” pontificate without truly engaging. Demos shift this dynamic, creating a balance where both the presenter and the audience benefit.

Demos require effort. Presenters must take their ideas from concept to reality, earning the audience’s attention. This hard work, combined with the courage to showcase one’s creation, results in information-dense presentations that reveal the best and most critical parts of a project. The constraint of time limits ensures focus and efficiency, making every moment count.

But beyond the mechanics, demos inspire. They embody the ethos of “If they can do it, so can I.” The tangible achievements of demoers motivate others to take action, fostering a culture of innovation and creativity.

The Role of Community and Collaboration

MVD wouldn’t be what it is without the strong sense of community and collaboration that underpins it. The formation of Novus and Atelier were pivotal moments, providing spaces where like-minded individuals could come together, share ideas, and work on meaningful projects.

Believing in friends, fostering connections, and doing work that matters are the cornerstones of our community. These principles drive us to support one another, leading to creative outcomes that are greater than the sum of their parts.

The Spirit of MVD

The spirit of MVD is encapsulated in the words of those who have been part of this journey:

  • “Passionate people have come together and put a ton of effort into making what you’re about to see tonight.”
  • “Believe in your friends, help people form meaningful connections, do work that is meaningful to you.”
  • “You are a designer. You may not feel like one, but you are the architect of your own life.”

These quotes reflect the ethos of MVD—a celebration of creativity, collaboration, and community. It’s a space where we come together to share, learn, and inspire.

Huge Spectrum of Creativity and Innovation at MVD

The evening at MVD was a showcase of diverse projects, each representing a unique intersection of art, technology, and science. The demos presented were not just about the finished products but also about the process, the journey, and the collaboration that brought them to life.

1. Flo’s Journey: From Physics to Design

Flo’s transition from physics to design was a compelling narrative of intentionality and personal growth. She emphasized how every action, from daily walks to texting friends, is an opportunity for intentional living. “You are a designer. You may not feel like one, but you are the architect of your own life,” she said. Flo’s journey reminds us that mindful actions shape our reality, and in a world of constant distraction, this mindful approach is more crucial than ever. Flo also shared how design is additive, bringing various paradigms and interests into a cohesive practice that is playful, curious, collaborative, and intentional.

By Kris Krüg – Trombone Geometry – The harmonious blend of musical structure and spatial design

2. Milan’s Automated Drawing Tool

Milan’s demo explored the intersection of art and technology through creative coding. He showcased an automated drawing tool that deconstructs the process of drawing through code. “Software is going to change how we do art,” Milan declared. His project illustrated how technology can enhance artistic expression, offering new ways to create and interact with art. Milan shared his process of learning to code using a turtle, which he used to create abstract drawings with chalk and charcoal. He built a mark library and used random compositions to generate complex, surprising, and delightful drawings .

By Kris Krüg – Synthetic illustrations – Machine sketches with human-like spontaneity

3. Irene’s Comic About Time in Transit

Irene presented a comic that delves into the often overlooked moments of transit time. Using Instagram’s format, she enhanced the storytelling experience, making it more immersive and relatable. “Transit is an experience that is experienced by a lot of people,” she noted. Her work highlighted the beauty in the mundane, encouraging us to find peace and reflection in the in-between moments of our daily lives. Irene’s comic could be read forwards and backwards, using Instagram’s swiping mechanism to create a dynamic storytelling experience.

By Kris Krüg – Skytrain Chrono Odyssey – A journey through the passage of time in transit

4. James’s Shapeshifting Machines

James demonstrated how AI can simplify media manipulation, making it more accessible and versatile. His project, Shapeshifting Machines, transforms different media types to enhance creativity. “The boundary between mediums is shrinking,” James explained. This demo showcased the potential of AI to break down traditional barriers in media, fostering a more fluid and dynamic creative process. He illustrated how different AI models and programming techniques can convert images to 3D models, create depth maps, and blend various media elements together .

By Kris Krüg – Media Alchemy – The transformation of different media into new forms

5. Ritika’s Civic Tech Studio: V6A

Ritika’s demo explored civic tech and worldbuilding through her project V6A. She integrated historical and cultural sensibilities with technology to create a platform that addresses civic issues. “Having a technological sensibility without a historical or cultural one makes you blind to the past,” Ritika emphasized. Her work underscored the importance of blending technology with cultural awareness to create meaningful and impactful solutions. Ritika’s journey started with a project on scientific storytelling and plant blindness, evolving into various civic tech projects that fostered community engagement and innovation.

By Kris Krüg – Urban Symbiosis – The interdependence of city life and technological innovation

6. Lingkang’s Dual Arm Humanoid Robot

Lingkang presented a dual arm humanoid robot designed to be accessible and low-cost. Using an exoskeleton for remote control, he demonstrated the robot’s capabilities. “Why yet another humanoid? To make it extremely simple and accessible,” Lingkang said. His project highlighted the potential for robotics to be more inclusive and available to a broader audience, democratizing access to advanced technology. The robot is open source, full human size, and made with low-cost materials like 3D printed parts and off-the-shelf servomotors .

By Kris Krüg – Bionic Choreography Kinetic Spectrum

7. Vivian, Snow, Janika, & Noah: Multimedia Interactive Dance: Integrating Dance with Technology

Janika’s group performance was a mesmerizing blend of dance and digital art, using Kinect sensors to create an interactive experience. “There are endless possibilities of combining performing arts with various different art forms,” Janika noted. This demo was a perfect embodiment of MVD’s spirit, showcasing how technology can enhance and transform traditional art forms. The performance used Unity to create visuals that responded to the dancer’s movements, and DMX lights that changed color and direction based on the dancer’s position .

By Kris Krüg – Classical dance plus future tech.

8. Nick’s Darkroom Photography

Nick’s demo on darkroom photography was a grounding moment in an evening filled with digital innovations. He emphasized the tactile nature of analog processes, demonstrating darkroom techniques and the importance of working with one’s hands. “Work with your hands, work with your art form with your hands. The physicality cannot be understated,” Nick asserted. His presentation reminded us of the enduring value of traditional art forms in a digital age. Nick shared his experience rebooting a film photography program called Through the Lens, which provided students with film cameras and darkroom access.

By Kris Krüg – Vintage analog photography darkroom wizard cowboy

9. Josh’s New Way to Read PDFs

Josh introduced a revolutionary way to read PDFs by creating a two-dimensional map of documents. This approach addresses the challenge of navigating large bodies of text. “The problem with text is that it’s all micro,” Josh observed. His project offered a new perspective on how we interact with text, making it easier to comprehend and navigate complex documents. Josh’s tool transforms documents into nested, explorable structures, enhancing spatial memory and orientation.

By Kris Krüg – The Last Infobender

10. Arshia’s Generative Arabic Script

Arshia’s exploration of GANs to revive calligraphic Arabic script was a beautiful blend of modern technology and cultural heritage. “Having a technological sensibility without a historical or cultural one makes you blind to the past,” Arshia highlighted. Her work demonstrated how technology can be used to preserve and revitalize traditional art forms, ensuring their relevance in the digital age. Arshia created a dataset of 60,000 unique samples of fully connected letter combinations to train the GANs, reviving the visual complexities lost due to technological changes.

By Kris Krüg – Glyph Mirage – The ethereal beauty of generative Arabic script

11. Murat’s Music from Realtime String Physics

Murat’s demo showcased the creation of music through mathematical calculations of string vibrations. This project beautifully blended science and art, showing the interconnectedness of these fields. “The symphony of mathematics and music,” Murat mused. His work was a testament to the idea that at their core, science and art are two sides of the same coin. Murat’s project involved offloading calculations to the GPU to simulate string vibrations, producing organic and complex musical tones .

By Kris Krüg – Acoustic Alchemy – The creation of music from real-time string physics

12. Anson and Hoetze’s Solar A-Frame Project

Anson and Hoetze’s project involved building a solar A-frame structure with friends, emphasizing the joy of collaborative creation. “There are good projects, there are great projects, and then there are projects that you work on with your friends,” they shared. This demo encapsulated the spirit of MVD, highlighting the importance of collaboration, community, and the shared joy of making something together. They turned a group chat idea into a physical structure by securing land through social media outreach and collaborating with friends to build and test the solar A-frame.

By Kris Krüg – Solar Sanctuary – The peaceful coexistence of nature and sustainable technology

Reflections and Takeaways

As the night wound down, I found myself reflecting on the broader implications of what I’d witnessed. Here are some key insights:

1. Community as a Catalyst: The projects showcased at MVD weren’t created in isolation. They were nurtured by communities like Novus and Atelier, proving that supportive ecosystems are crucial for innovation.

2. Interdisciplinary Approach: The most compelling projects were those that bridged multiple disciplines. This cross-pollination of ideas is where true innovation often occurs.

3. Technology as an Enabler: While technology was a common thread, it wasn’t the star of the show. Instead, it served as an enabler, allowing creators to express their visions in new and exciting ways.

4. Preservation Through Innovation: Projects like Arshia’s GAN-generated calligraphy show how we can use cutting-edge technology to preserve and revitalize cultural heritage.

5. The Importance of Tactile Experiences: In our rush towards digitization, we mustn’t lose sight of the value of analog, hands-on experiences. They connect us to our work in ways that purely digital creations often can’t.

6. Reimagining the Familiar: Some of the most impactful projects weren’t about creating something entirely new, but about finding new ways to interact with familiar concepts or objects.

7. The Joy of Collaborative Creation: The energy and enthusiasm surrounding projects created with friends were palpable. There’s a special magic in collaborative creation that can’t be replicated in solo work.

Looking Ahead

As I left MVD, my mind was buzzing with possibilities. The event was a glimpse into the future of creative technology in Vancouver and beyond. The connections formed, the ideas sparked, and the collaborations initiated at events like these have the potential to shape our technological and cultural landscape for years to come.

To those who participated, I say this: keep pushing boundaries, keep questioning assumptions, and above all, keep creating. To those who couldn’t make it, I encourage you to seek out these communities, to engage with these ideas, and to bring your own unique perspective to the table.

In the words of one presenter, “If you poke at the world and shout into the void, the void might just shout back.” So let’s keep shouting, keep creating, and keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. The future is being built right here, in co-working spaces, in late-night coding sessions, in dance studios, and in darkrooms. And if MVD is any indication, that future is bright indeed.

Here’s to the creators, the innovators, and the dreamers. May your projects continue to inspire, challenge, and transform our world.

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