Mia debuts divining rod for art discovery designed by Architecture’s Molly Reichert

Photo of a person holding the divining rod, a plastic u-shaped device with a circle of led lights in the center, near a landscape painting

The Divining Rod in action in one of Mia’s galleries (photo courtesy of Mia)

When Architecture faculty member Molly Reichert teamed up with engineer Ben Arcand to enter Minneapolis Institute of Art’s 3M Arts and Technology Award last year, they came up with a concept that was simple and elegant: a divining rod to guide visitors through the museum galleries in a unique, interesting way.

But once they won the award, they realized that now they had to actually build it. That took many prototypes (with some of the concepts 3D-printed in Dunwoody’s Materials, Mechanics,& Metrology Lab); recruiting additional team members to help with the software and fabrication; and lots of testing and debugging.

The Divining Rod team (left to right): Max Hoagland, hardware/software designer and programmer; co-creators Ben Arcand and Molly Reichert; and Blaine Garrett, algorithm programmer and designer. (photo courtesy of Mia)

The divining rod project came together in the end and debuted late last month. It features a u-shaped plastic casing that senses your location and displays lights that show you which direction to go in order to find an initial work of art. Once you’ve arrived at the artwork, you scan the label next to it and press a plus or minus button on the rod. Your reaction then interacts with a recommendation algorithm and guides you to a different piece of art it thinks you will like. Every interaction with the divining rod helps the recommendation algorithm it uses personalizes your museum experience further. It also helps the algorithm continue to learn and get better as a recommendation engine.

“The Divining Rods Project has a lot of potential for further development and could be used in a variety of contexts,” Reichert said. “We’re hoping that the collected data can be used to create new projects that augment the museum visitor experience.”

The divining rod project can be experienced at the museum on weekends and most Thursday and Friday evening (click here for a full schedule).

Read more about the product development process on the Mia Divining Rods project blog.

2017 3M Art and Technology Competition

There’s still time to submit your ideas for the 2017 version of the awards. Ideas are due by December 1, 2017. Find out more at the competition website¬†and submit your ideas here.