Each spring, a controlled explosion of techno-art creativity takes place in downtown Manhattan. The blast comes is part of a final test for graduating masters students at NYU's "Center for the Recently Possible," part of the university's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). With classes like Cabinets of Wonder and Computational Cameras, this master's program is a kind of R&D playground where hackers and tinkerers explore the edges of making.

Here are a few of our favorites from the most recent crop of grads, who unveiled their thesis work this month.


The Digit, an augmented reality iPhone app created by Slava Balasanov, projects a floating virtual sculpture of George Washington's index finger over New York City's Union Square. Like the lovechild of a William Gibson plot device and the Fantastic Four's Silver Surfer, The Digit's fluid surface points at passers-by without their even realizing. (Are we the only ones who think it looks a little like a double dildo? Just us? Nevermind, then.)

Balasanov created The Digit in response to two existing public artworks in the area, one of which is a statue of Washington. You can download her thesis as an app for free; but not to worry if you can't make it to NYC to test the finger IRL. You can at least watch a disembodied version of George's digit hover over a virtual lake online, or view its incarnation in an awesome visual essay created by Balsanov to accompany the piece.

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The Abscissa Cycle, created by Emily Webster, lets you walk through the interior of Cassiopeia A, our galaxy's youngest known neutron star. Remnants of supernova collapses, ultra-hot neutron stars maintain intense gravitational fields because of their density - any denser and they'd actually collapse into black holes.

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Webster began by creating a 2-D model of Cassiopeia A's gravitational forces. Next the computer simulation was separated into 60 individual layers, each of which was turned into an etched acrylic plate. Webster then painted and hung cross-sections to reconstruct the neutron star as a 3-D physical object. Four feet in length, viewers can stroll calmly through this incarnation of Cassiopeia without getting crushed by its immense internal force of the real stellar version.

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With a tagline like "hair gel of the future," Halien will immediately charm cosplay fans and Manic-Panic survivors. Its inventor, Benji Canning-Pereira, wanted to create a product that lets anybody "morph hair color into a portable science experiment."

Canning-Pereira says:

I believe that the future calls for more casual ways to transform your visual identity. Transformative hair is just the start. Halien allows you to embrace your many personalities and be the many versions of you even in a single day. Ultimately, like your hair, you are not static.

These three innovations are just a small sample of the cool gadgets and gizmos on display at NYU spanning disciplinary areas from assistive technology to sustainable energy. You can view more inspired projects from ITP's spring 2011 show here.