Way back in July, I wrote about Digital Light… showing the way. In that posting, I talked about intelligent outdoor lighting that would know where we are, where we wanted to go, and would help show us how to get there. And, it would save energy at the same time.
A site in London (the City of Westminster, to be more precise) designed by Jason Bruges Studio is part way there as you can see from the video below from Bruge’s website. He treats this as art and well he should, saying:
“The artwork responds to the different speeds, rhythms and concentration of people in the alley, and a flowing pattern of light is built up in the passageway which reflects the recent movement.”
But at the same time, it’s lighting, too. He goes on to say:
“White LED uplights, recessed into the paving, increase in intensity as people pass by causing a rippling wave of light to move through the passageway tracing their movement. When there are no pedestrians the lights dim to a low brightness to save energy while also providing a safe level of illumination.”
I like this a lot. It’s art. It’s functional. It’s smart about energy. It’s responsive. Now imagine what could be done with color and with a lot more pixels.
Check out his website. The studio has some really interesting pixels everywhere projects include Mimosa for Philips using Lumiblade LEDs.
Earlier this month I wrote about”Pixels Big Enough to Hug” which generated a lot of interest. I came across a similar giant pixel project called “Light Drift” by Boston’s Howeler+YoonArchitecture. It was shown in October 2010 in Philadelphia and again in Boston in May 2011.
Pixels (they call them ‘orbs’) were in the river and on the shore. All of the pixels had blue and green LEDs inside them. Pixels on the shore communicated with pixels in the water, and pixels on the water also communicated with each other. The Architects Library blog has more detail. Quoting from that blog:
“Light Drift creates an atmosphere, a field of lights that transform in color and intensity based on the public interaction with it. The resting state of the field is a constant state of green. When a visitor approaches a land orb, the orb will start an “enticement mode” by pulsing between blue and green. If a visitor sits on the orb, the pulsing will transition to a blue state. The water orbs that align with the land orb will change colors at the same time, creating a linear extension of blue lights in the water. Because the orbs are arranged on a diagonal grid, the lines of lit orbs will form a series of intersecting lines in the field. The intersection of lines of lit orbs in the water will encourage different people interacting with the orbs to also interact with each other.”
Very nice. There are a lot more photos on flickr. Now if one could only fully control each orb’s color…. it shouldn’t be too hard to do that! Pixels in more and more places — pixels everywhere!
Yesterday, researchers at the University of Illinois-Urbana announced skin-like patches (here) that have electronic circuits on them and can be put directly on the surface of the skin. Here is an excerpt (emphasis added by me):
“The circuit bends, wrinkles, and stretches with the mechanical properties of skin. The researchers demonstrated their concept through a diverse array of electronic components mounted on a thin, rubbery substrate, including sensors, LEDs, transistors, radio frequency capacitors, wireless antennas, and conductive coils and solar cells for power.”
The announcement goes on to say:
“The technology can connect you to the physical world and the cyberworld in a very natural way that feels very comfortable.”
They emphasize medical applications, but I think this has big implications on the broader digital light/pixels everywhere future. For example:
- we’ll be able to put pixels all over our bodies. They’ll be almost part of us, not just projected onto us (see http://www.pixelizedlight.com/2011/07/pixels-everywhere-i-mean-all-over/) . Why? To reflect our mood, perhaps, or maybe as art or most likely just for fun.
- if this technology truly wrinkles, stretches and bends as well as the researchers claim, why restrict it to skin patches? Maybe this is a breakthrough that enables a big leap forward in highly flexible materials for
- fashion … think what Moritz Waldemeyer or Vega Wang could do with this (see: http://www.pixelizedlight.com/2011/07/wearable-pixels/)
- interior design… imagine LED enhanced curtains, furniture fabrics, and wall coverings …potentially taking what Kvadrat and Philips have done to a whole new level (see http://www.pixelizedlight.com/2011/07/big-beautiful-blurry-pixelized-walls/)
- architecture … the mind boggles at what architects could potentially do with flexible building material that illuminates and senses the environment.
Fun things to think about on a Friday afternoon! Maybe the pieces are falling into place for ‘pixels everywhere’. The world is going to be a canvas and you and I will be part of that canvas.
Oh no….are we approaching the digital light singularity … the pixelarity?
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.
Most of us use so-called social media…. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…. but in some ways they are anti-social media. Why? Because we’re somewhere else from whomever we’re socializing with. Separate. Alone.
When we become surrounded by pixels, new ways of interacting, sharing, communicating, will emerge. All it will take is large amounts of pixels on the walls around us. Pixels that are interactive, responsive.
There was glimpse into this future at the recent InfoComm 2011 in Orlando where Baanto and Christie partnered to show something called “the Graffiti Wall”. Multiple people could interact with a 12 tile wide by 4 tile high (16′ x 4′) MicroTile wall using Baanto’s Shadowsense technology. If you watch the video, you’ll see multiple people simultaneously interacting with the wall and with each other. They not only used traditional gesture-based interactivity, they also used artists’ brushes to create a more natural illusion of drawing.
Imagine this in classrooms. In meeting rooms. In our homes. In public spaces. What new killer apps will emerge that weren’t possible before?
(full disclosure: I’m recently retired from Christie, and represent them on Baanto’s board. It doesn’t matter — I would think this is very cool no matter what!)
In my last post, I made a stab at defining digital light. The essence was pixels needed to be involved. Big ones or small ones.
As an example of what I meant, here is a link to the Ideo Labs website . Check out the interesting videos. The pixels are glass building blocks. This won’t really turn the world into a high-resolution canvas, but it’s still fun.
There are a lot of individuals exploring the theme of Digital Light, although they may not call it that. Sometimes it’s mainstream to their work and sometimes it’s just a beautiful byproduct. (continue reading…)