LACE: An Interactive Cluster of Tablet Computers and Kinetic Sculpture to Educate General Audiences on Distributed Blockchain Technologies
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Blockchain technologies and cryptocurrency have made a significant impact on today's computing and financial sectors, and the use cases for blockchain applications are increasing day by day. However, there is little understanding of blockchain and cryptocurrencies amongst the general public. In this work, we present LACE, a kinetic sculpture and decentralized ledger created to educate audiences on the complexities of cryptocurrency creation through a visual form. We discuss the design and implementation of LACE as a modular system constructed of 10 kinetic units, each unit containing an array of Microsoft Surface tablets and one delta robot arm to perform touch based operations on each tablet with a modified stylus. Through this structure, we establish a distributed computing system in which each tablet represents blockchain nodes that maintain copies of the blockchain, mine for new blocks and process transactions through visual software interfaces. Additionally, we implement an interactive gaming module to help audiences understand the work of blockchain creation and the mining process. Finally, we evaluate the LACE project's effectiveness to teach audiences through a detailed questionnaire at the 2022 Accelerate Festival in Washington, DC. We found that 73% of visitors agreed they were able to learn something new from LACE and 82% enjoyed their interaction with LACE.
General Audience Abstract
Global technology, computing, economic and financial sectors are all increasingly influenced by the use of the relatively new technologies known as blockchain and cryptocurrency. A blockchain is a publicly distributed digital ledger that keeps track of transaction data securely through cryptography. This technology is heavily associated with the global economy, following the introduction of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin in 2008. Cryptocurrency has often been compared to fiat currencies which are not backed by a commodity with intrinsic value like gold. Bitcoin is seen as a commodity due to its scarcity, with approximately 19 million bitcoins in existence and can be used as a monetary value to purchase goods and services. Studies have shown that a large segment of the general public has little to no understanding of these concepts, even those who have significant related investments. To help expand the understanding of these topics to general audiences, we present LACE; a kinetic sculpture and digital ledger designed to educate audiences on the complexities of cryptocurrency creation through visual and interactive demonstration. LACE demonstrates the processes of blockchain technologies through physical robotic movement and interactive software visualizations. Consisting of a collection of 10 acrylic hexagon units stacked together like building blocks to mimic a virtual network, each unit interacts with an array of Microsoft Surface tablets through an operating robot arm and modified stylus. These tablets illustrate the work of a blockchain through various visualizations, demonstrating the work of nodes and miners who operate and maintain a blockchain network. To help audiences understand the work of blockchain creation and the mining process, we implement an interactive gaming module where participants can act as a miner within a blockchain network and assist in the process of mining for new blocks, help maintain the blockchain and process transactions. We evaluate the LACE project's effectiveness to teach audiences through a detailed questionnaire at the 2022 Accelerate Festival in Washington, DC. We found that 76% of visitors had a better understanding of blockchain concepts following their interactions with LACE and 82% enjoyed their interaction with the sculpture overall.
- Masters Theses