Archive for July, 2011
July 26 is the DailyDOOH’s 4th birthday. It’s hard to overestimate the positive influence the DailyDOOH has had on the digital out of home space and consequently on my thinking about digital light.
I first met Adrian Cotterill, DailyDOOH editor-in-chief, well over 3 years ago. Don Shaw and I were trying to develop the MicroTiles concept at Christie and someone suggested we contact Adrian. He ‘got’ the concept in a nanosecond and and immediately dreamed up new ways to use tiles and new people to partner with. “Shape is the new king” was a phrase we learned from Adrian.
It wasn’t long before he involved his fellow DOOH’er, genius Andrew Neale, in the thought process. Don and I were rookies in the DOOH space but they were patient with us.
They quickly got us in touch with smart, visionary content developers like Arsenal Media and Amigo Digital. MicroTiles became a better product because of the DailyDOOH. It was fun because the DOOH’er are fun people to work with.
Christie paid for the DailyDOOH’s consulting and it was more than worth it. A lot of consultants simply play back what the client expects to hear. Not with these guys. I recall the hearing words ‘twit’, ‘dolt’, ‘slow learner’ and the like when they thought Christie ought to know better or when we weren’t listening. When we did listen, the product got better. It was an honor to have Adrian be the emcee at the MicroTiles launch event..
The DailyDOOH is a great read. It connects the dots for me, and that’s why I read it. Yes, it’s opinionated, but who wants to read regurgitated press releases? Their opinions are usually right, but when they’re wrong, they have the character to say so. That’s good journalism.
What has this got to do with digital light, you ask? For me, a lot. They helped me realize displays are not just two-dimensional. They taught me to look at public spaces in new ways to see how pixels could make a difference. They helped me appreciate what’s tasteful –worth doing– in digital out of home and what is simply a waste of time, space, money and photons.
Happy 4.0 birthday, DailyDOOH.
Yesterday, I posed the question “Why shouldn’t all light be possible to modulate?” and promised to explore where that might take us. Wayfinding is one example.
Wayfinding using digital displays is becoming pretty commonplace. But that just makes signs smarter — we get the information we need and then we move on. Wayfinding using the GPS in our smartphones isn’t much different. It’s handier because we have the phone with us and we can refer to it whenever we want. But just like the digital sign example, we get the information we need and we move on.
What if the lights around us could actually lead us where we want to go?
After all, there are a lot of light sources. Consider this jogger running at night. If the street lights could be modulated, then maybe the lights could brighten the path where she is running and reduce brightness everywhere else. Maybe the lights could also help her find her way. Street lights today can’t do this, but new generations of lights perhaps could if we thought about light in new ways.
This would make our streets safer. It would reduce light pollution.
It will require big advances in lowering the cost of modulating, steering, and controlling light. This sort of wayfinding wouldn’t need very high resolution, so that would help. Even so, the new generation of street lights would cost more than today but I think the benefits could be worth it.
It will also require advances in the energy efficiency of modulated light… but some interesting work in novel MEMS devices, ultra-miniature motors and (perhaps) holographic projection might make this possible.
(thanks to Kristina Foster for the animation)
So what do all the posts so far mean? Are we just talking about displays by another name? Different kinds of displays, sometimes used in new ways, but displays nonetheless?
Maybe, but I don’t think so. Look at the world around you.
How many electric sources of light can you see right now? I’ll bet it’s a lot. Did you include the display you’re looking at as a source of light? The mobile phone in your pocket? The digital billboard you saw on the highway? Aren’t there more –a lot more– of those sources of light than there were last year, and the year before that?
What makes those kinds of light different? It’s because some are modulated, pixelized. Isn’t it already happening, on large scales like projection mapping, and on small scales like the VeinViewer?
Why shouldn’t all light be possible to modulate? In upcoming posts, I’ll explore that question a bit further.
Sometimes the world changes from the top down from important technology advances and sometimes it changes from the bottom up from people quietly working in the background experimenting and exploring. Christie MicroTiles is an example of the former. The work of Moritz Waldemeyer and Vega Wang in wearable pixels are examples of the latter. So is Feliz Klassen’s experimentation with ‘malleable matter’.
Often, it’s both things happening at the same time. The “Junkyard Jumbotron” project by Rick Borovoy’s team at MIT’s Medialab is one example.
This system sends content to an array of displays from a server. The server figures out which display gets which particular piece of the overall image. The individual displays don’t have to be all the same type and they can be arranged more or less arbitrarily. A critical problem is how to easily figure out the arrangement of the displays and Borovoy’s team has come up with a clever way to do that. First, a unique bar code is sent to each display in the array. A camera takes a picture of the entire array and sends it to a server. The servers figures out the overall arrangement from the bar codes in the picture.
Probably not as accurate as the single pixel accuracy of a MicroTile array but certainly close enough for fun displays like this. Because of how the images are sent, the jumbotron currently isn’t suitable for video. But it seems highly suitable for experimenting and exploring.
Pixels everywhere.… one little display at a time!
My friend Jordan Priede told me about a recent announcement from Philips about LED-illuminated wall coverings which they worked on with Kvadrat Soft Cells. Think of it as LED-illuminated wallpaper targeted at commercial spaces, and it could be a very important step toward the digital light future.
What they’ve done is embed addressable LEDs — I’m guessing pretty low resolution– into a semi-opaque wall covering. Now ordinarily low res LEDs look really awful, especially close up. All you normally would see close up are bright LED points of light that are way too bright– I certainly wouldn’t want them in a restaurant or lobby.
The clever thing with the Kvadrat/Philips product is that the fabric on the wallpaper blurs the LEDs. Conventional thinking is that blurring is bad, but in this case it makes the image look continuous. Contrast is low and it’s no good as-is for text, but it looks like it might actually work nicely for combining illumination with mood. The video below shows the idea better than the photos do.
If it’s as good as the photos and video in the announcement make it appear, this could actually be useful even in bright environments. This really is a kind of digital light. I’m sure it won’t be low-cost initially, but low resolution LED displays are dropping in price fast and that bodes well for this sort of application.
You may have already read about Mirrus‘ digital mirror installation at O’Hare Airport. A digital display shows a full screen advertisement, but when a person approaches the display, the ad shrinks to one corner and the display becomes a mirror. I like the fact it responds to people approaching it. Thankfully, there is no mention of touch interaction there — this is probably one type of installation where touch is definitely not appropriate! There are a number of videos on the web about the O’Hare installation including the one below:
The Mirrus website also shows something called CoolerVision which displays content on glass freezer doors in grocery stores. I think the addition of gesture response would be very effective in installations like this one.
“Ignite is a geek event in over 100 cities worldwide. At the events Ignite presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes”
I think I met the geek criterion. The 20 slide / 15 second rule was a worry, though. My normal speeches on Digital Light are longer, so cramming in the bare essentials into the strict Ignite format was a fun challenge . It also meant I had to talk really fast.
So…. here is the short version of the future of digital light. Thanks to Ignite Waterloo for putting this on YouTube.