I collaborated with an undergraduate industrial design student, Jon Talbot, to create an interactive light installation for the Winter Lights Market in Providence, RI . We received funding from the city to build 12 interactive light units for the event. Our original goal was to explore ways of increasing park usage and dwell time in the park during the colder, darker months when activity is at its lowest. We had to modify the objective of our project slightly in response to our collaboration with the city, and ultimately focused on creating an engaging installation that inspires curiosity and facilitates human interaction.
Each unit is comprised primarily of an arduino nano, LED ring, motion sensor, data logger (maybe), housing and battery. We created working prototypes using an arduino uno, breadboard and modified light fixtures to test the initial concept. From there we refined the design by making it more compact and durable. We migrated the design to an arduino nano and designed wooden molds to vacuum form custom housings.
When at rest the lights emit a baseline pattern of light, and when they detect motion the pattern changes to a more active, engaging display. After a period of inactivity, the lights return to their rest state. The concept is simple, but there are many ways to apply the concepts of pattern, color and timing. In my hometown the fields are filled with sleeping grass that closes in response to physical touch. Kids spend entire afternoons running around trying get all the leaves to close. This shows that even binary responses can be very engaging.