Information Experience Design – Experimental Design (MA)

Akvile Terminaite

Every time you establish a secure web connection your device and the computer it’s communicating with exchange a pair of numbers. These are used to create a temporary encryption key. The described process is a cryptography technique that relies on a chain of random numbers in order to keep your information safe.


There are two types of random numbers: true and pseudo. Unless it is by chance, a true random number is a sequence of numbers or symbols that cannot be predicted. Pseudo-random number behaviour, on the other hand, can be predicted if the generation method is known.

To ensure the safety of online communications we need true random numbers. Such sequences can be found when a machine works with physical phenomena. Currently there are some true random number generators (RNGs) which use white noise, radioactive decay or even lava lamps as their source.

With 4.57 billion of us actively using the internet and the growing threat of cyber security, further exploration is needed of new and reliable sources of entropy for true random number generators.

Presented here is a two part project. Firstly, a proof of concept for Bacteria as a Digital Mediator RNG, which resulted from collaboration with software programmers and Open Cell. And secondly, a proposal for an interactive installation that brings to live the worlds of microbiology and cryptography and invites the audience to play with these apparently abstract but critical topics. 

Contact

akvile.terminaite@network.rca.ac.uk

https://akvilete.cargo.site

Sponsors

Playful curiosity is the catalyst for my research-led design practice that draws from social and cognitive sciences and maker culture. I create process-based immersive installations that invite the audience to rediscover their own childlike wonder and natural ability to create rich alternative narratives and new ways of seeing and knowing.

My background in museum education provides a rich foundation for this collaborative approach that negotiates the intersection between product interface and interaction design. 

Installation (gallery view)

Installation (close up)

As a designer, I was interested in the singularity of a human hand and it became apparent that a source of true randomness lies literally at our fingertips. Building on the knowledge that everyone has a unique and fluctuating hand microbiome a method has been designed to carry out hashing functions (where the input becomes a seed for a random number) from the process of cultivating bacteria colonies. These initial tests demonstrate the untapped potential of human hand bacteria to generate true random numbers.

To start a conversation and take the project further, the proposed installation would invite the audience to engage with this topic. Through the interaction, human hand bacteria can be collected in order to further the research. Both as a speculative provocation in an education and cultural context, Bacteria as a Digital Mediator RNG could have applications in technology, science and art industry.

This installation consists of capsules that hold petri dishes, which are linked to computers that upon interaction change the sequence of numbers from predictable to random on the flip counter.

By opening a capsule, one can place their hand on a petri dish. This interaction would activate the flip counter to change the sequence of numbers displayed. This action illustrates how one's touch can be translated into random numbers.

The imprint left on the petri dish can be sent to the lab where cultivating bacteria and hashing can be carried out.

Open Cell:

https://www.opencell.bio/

Phillip Quiza:

https://pilliq.com

Interaction

Capsule (closed)

Capsule (open)

A close up view of the capsule design that also holds the petri dish

System overview

Interaction map

An overview of the relationship between the installation and the random number generator

Hashing

Hashing β€” This video is an illustration of how an image of bacterial growth becomes a random number. An algorithm carries out a hashing function which converts image data into a hash that seeds the random number generator. Created by Erik Lintunen

Demonstrating the hashing function and the process through which an image becomes a random number
Social
Royal College of Art
Registered Office: Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2EU
RCA™ Royal College of Art™ are trademarks of the Royal College of Art