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Innovation & Startups

Iontank: Bringing the imagination to life through interactive technology


Iontank, a specialized design studio based in Friendship that develops custom-built interactive hardware and software solutions for just about anything you can imagine, is looking to grow. In fact if you're a technically minded artist or a creative coder, Iontank might just be the place for you. A typical day at the office might include tossing around ideas involving “giant robots, fire and lasers,” says Rob de la Cretaz, technical director.

"Due to the nature of our business, growth is a weird thing," says de la Cretaz, who joined the company two years ago when there were just three employees. Now there are five and while the company is looking to expand, they want to be smart about how they are doing it, keeping the dynamism of their business in mind.

Iontank devises imaginative concepts and guides clients around the country through the prototyping process and into production. Director Stephen Streibig founded Iontank in 2001. Today, the crew includes disciplined techs and artists that boast a complete mastery of pixels, hammer drills and soldering irons.
 
“Pittsburgh is where we have chosen to live because we love the collaborative spirit of the creative folks that live here,” says de la Cretaz. “We are always open to collaborating with local artists and entities. We have an extensive war chest of technical toys and we don’t mind sharing.”
 
While the sky is the limit, much of Iontank’s work revolves around remarkable projects that leave jaws agape via installations, events and the trade show industry. For example, Iontank collaborated on the world’s first audience-driven interactive fireworks display alongside fireworks giant Pyrotecnico and VICE’s electronic music and culture channel THUMP. Commissioned to celebrate the launch of Samsung’s Galaxy S4 on Manhattan’s Pier 84, the project has been called a game-changer in the pyrotechnic industry.
 
Iontank built a phone app that integrated seamlessly to a pyrotechnics firing board and allowed hundreds of participants to customize and view the launch of actual fireworks at the touch of the screen.
 
“Seeing the looks on peoples’ faces when they realize they just fired a real firework made for an incredible project,” says de la Cretaz.
 
“The whole process was very collaborative and could never have happened in such a crazy time frame without the support of the experienced techs and logistics personnel at Pyrotecnico. . . We are used to working under pressure and know how to plan for all kinds of contingencies, but there is nothing quite like having huge batteries of live fireworks on the other end of your mouse,” says de la Cretaz. “Click and bang.”
 
Though Iontank can’t disclose specifics about current projects in the works, de la Cretaz says the team is building off the momentum of the interactive fireworks project and buzzing with ideas to harness the energy of a crowd to create exciting experiences.
 
“The concept of allowing a large group of people control their entertainment through innovative means instead of simply subjecting them to a predetermined composition is a very exciting prospect for us,” says de la Cretaz. “We are in the process of developing several prototypes to explore this territory.”
 
He describes his dream project as one that involves a client who is open to new and exciting ideas, a realistic budget and the shared understanding that amazing experiences normally take longer than four weeks to pull off.
 
“We’re always curious and hungry to develop new experiences,” says de la Cretaz. “There’s no doubt that there’s a healthy cross-pollination taking place between the worlds of advertising, architecture, design and digital artistry. We look forward to pushing those boundaries even further and to shaping a wondrous and unexpected future.”
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