pixels             …everywhere.


Digital light… showing the way

by on Jul.22, 2011, under energy use, musings, novel technology

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)

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Pixels …. a few here, a few there….

by on Jul.21, 2011, under musings

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.

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Fast Talking about Digital Light

by on Jul.13, 2011, under musings

Recently I spoke about Digital Light at an Ignite event in Waterloo Region.  If you’re not familiar with the Ignite movement, here is a quote from http://igniteshow.com/ :

“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.

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The world as a (social) canvas

by on Jul.12, 2011, under architecture, art, MicroTiles, musings

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!)

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Genealogies of Digital Light… Australia

by on Jul.08, 2011, under art, musings

A considerable amount of work in digital light is being done from an artistic perspective. One example is Filiz Klassen’s work at Ryerson University in Canada described in an earlier post.

Another example is the collaborative work being done by researchers at three Australian universities. Their project description is “Genealogies of Digital Light” and it’s described in more detail here: http://www.digital-light.net.au/node/40

Quoting from their website:

“The Genealogies of Digital Light ARC Discovery project will provide a critical account of the capacities and limitations of contemporary digital light-based technologies and techniques by tracing their genealogies and comparing them with their predecessor media. Through interview, analysis, experiment and critique, we hope to demonstrate that artists and artisans have a major role in redefining technologies through technique; and that close acquaintance with and appreciation of their working practices and the principles they work to are a significant resource for future generations.”

Artists certainly will have a major influence in a future world of ‘pixels everywhere’. This collaboration’s research focus is naturally academic but who knows where it will lead. According to their project website, they’ve already held a symposium this past March.

I’ve contacted one of the principal researchers and I hope I’ll be able to report more about their research in future posts  –or perhaps even get a guest post if I’m fortunate.

Worth keeping an eye on. This could yield useful insight into the convergence of light and technology.

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Digital Light…. towards a definition

by on Jun.29, 2011, under musings

It’s difficult to define digital light. It’s sort of  “I know it when I see it”.  But I think we need a starting point —  to get the discussion going at least.

Ordinary lighting illuminates small surfaces and large surfaces. Digital light does, too. But digital light illuminates the environment in a more controlled way. It uses points of light — pixels– to shape and reshape what we see: its color, intensity, form. Because of this pinpoint control, digital light can create new forms of art, new kinds of information, and, ultimately, new ways to interact with each other.

And the scope of digital light isn’t limited to illuminating surfaces. Sometimes the surfaces themselves emit light as pixels or reflect light as pixels. I don’t mean ordinary monitors or digital signs — I mean surfaces where the pixels are part of the environment itself.

Some examples might help. In an earlier post, I showed how a picoprojector could be a flashlight. In another post, I gave an example of projection mapping. In both examples, digital light illuminates the environment as pixels.

A different example is Onskebronn by Phase7.de — where people walk on a floor that emits light (in this case using LED panels).

So  digital light pixelizes the environment — and that is the core of the definition. Tiny pixels, big pixels, but always pixels. On the walls around us. On our desks. Even on our clothing — these surfaces will all become canvases to draw upon. Pixels everywhere.

Comments? What do you think?

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Digital Light: obstacles

by on Jun.27, 2011, under musings

I see pixels everywhere, but can we afford them? Beauty and function will probably not be enough.

I see a number of obstacles that need to be overcome before widespread adoption is possible. (continue reading…)

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