This interactive project uses light and sound to mimic the unpredictability of lightning.
If you’re a frequent visitor to the Bits & Pieces blog, then you’re no stranger to suspended, interactive installations meant to resemble naturally occurring events, such as weather patterns. Take designer Richard Clarkson’s aptly name Cloud, for instance. This responsive, Arduino-driven lamp and speaker system is capable of acting as a semi-immersive experience mimicking a thunderstorm. Similarly, New York design studio SOFTlab’s latest work is centered around a cell-like structure that emulates the unpredictability of lightning by reacting to footsteps and conversations of its viewers.
“Much like sponge the structure relies on redundancies and connections that cannot be achieved from a grid, giving it a soft cloud like shape. The irregularity of the network like structure imbues the piece with a playful personality as it reacts in unpredictable ways to environmental sound,” Cumulus’ creators reveal.
These reactions are achieved through a series of physical and digital systems working in unison. The structure itself is comprised of over 200 acrylic segments held together by 100-plus 3D printed joints, while nearly 230 feet of individually addressable LED strands are embedded inside. Meanwhile, the storm-inspired behaviors were programmed using Processing. This way, whenever ambient sound is detected, the signals are relayed to the LED segments via three Atmel based Arduino boards, transforming the piece into a visual barometer for the mood of the room and its occupants.
“Each time sound in the space reaches a certain volume the piece activates. The most interesting behavior was similar to our initial intent, lightning. This behavior seeks a path through one of the next connecting segments. The duration of the path is dictated by the volume of the sound that activates it. This simple algorithm creates a wide range of effects from long lightning like strands created through sporadic low frequency sounds to a staticky chatter when people are talking underneath it,” the SOFTlab crew adds.
The project was on display in the RAB showroom in Chelsea, New York through July 3rd. You can watch the cloud in action below.