Ponton European Media Art Lab (since 1994)

Because the federal state of Niedersachsen Saxony was willing to support Ponton as a technology company, Benjamin Heidersberger, Karel Dudesek, Salvatore Vanasco, Frank Matthäi and some staff members such as Ole Lütjens, Christian Wolf, Daniel Haude, Katharina Baumann, Michael Ulrich and Jendo Neversil, who had already been involved in Piazza virtuale, moved the Ponton European Media Lab from Hamburg to Hanover. What had started out as an artists’ collective became a commercial enterprise in 1994. As a full-service multimedia agency with 20 employees, various television programmes with a virtual studio and audience participation were created here. The company’s website said at the time: “The fields of activity range from interface design, development of applications, designs of interactive networks, experiments with digital television, hardware and software developments to practical broadcasting.”
One of the television programmes developed by Ponton in Hanover was the programme pilot Cafe Deutschland for 3Sat and Nachtfieber (Night Fever) for SWF3, which was clearly influenced by the interaction possibilities via telephone, mailbox and fax at Piazza virtuale. But there was now also a virtual version of the place where the programme was filmed, designed with the then common 3D format Virtual Reality Mark-Up Language (VRML), which could be “visited” via the Internet. This online space was reminiscent of the virtual sets in Hotel Pompino, while the way in which the virtual space interacted with the physical space was reminiscent of Service area i. a.. A virtual studio a la Hotel Pompino was also used for Cafe Deutschland. Benjamin Heidersberger developed a device for the company called AVIS that converted video signals into a serial data stream that could be transmitted with a modem over the Internet.

Later, web sites such as www.niedersachsen.de for the state government or www.deutschland.de for the Federal Press Office and later the Foreign Office were also created, as well as the online community kulturserver.de, which still exists today. In 1995, under pressure from the other founders, Karel Dudesek left the company with some of the staff to develop an early 3D environment on the Internet under the name Van Gogh TV with Worlds Within. Salvatore Vanasco built up a subsidiary in Hamburg, which split from the company in Hanover and became its own Aktiengesellschaft (public limited company) Ponton AG in 1999.

Virtual apartment for the TV show “Nachtfieber” on SWF 3