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“… the creation transforms casual observers into animated and engaged revelers, causing grownups and kids alike to jump, stomp, run and cheer as they make the lights flicker and flash” – Wired Magazine

“It reminds me of that Michael Jackson video,Billy Jean’, where the sidewalk lights up with every step he takes; except with more developed technology and a lot more psychedelic colors!” – Jason Hayes, musician, at SXSW

The piece: The Pool is an interactive installation made up of 106 giant circular LED pads that change color when you step on them. It encourages a playful audience to run around and hop on different circles; their weight making the platforms light up, spiral, and shift through different color combinations. Jen Lewin’s piece was originally created through a Burning Man art grant in 2008.  Since then, it has also gone to the Electric Daisy Carnival, SXSW and will be at Google IO this coming May.

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The technology: It wasn’t until a few years after its conception that Lumigeek got involved with the Pool. The installation was originally designed to be a group of individual circuit boards with wireless antennas that all communicated with each other. It was automata, each node passing along a message to another. When Lumigeek got on board, we reengineered the internal circuitry of the pool and put in a central brain, which controls the patterns and colors of the whole piece. When the installation was wireless, it required power to run to each platform, while serial communication through all the nodes has allowed us to turn it into what is essentially a giant video screen.

Each one of the LED platforms has 3 addressable strips of 52 pixels coiled up inside. To detect motion, there are accelerometers beneath the main capsule which sense when someone is standing on it.  We prototyped things in MaxMSP to manipulate visual data, wrote some processing and now the whole thing is Java based.

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The artist: Jen Lewin (right) is an interactive artist based in Boulder, CO. She grew up in Maui where her hippy-artist mother had people like Buckminster Fuller over for dinner. Maybe due to his influence, she went and got a BA in architecture and later on an MPS in ITP from NYU. Over the years she has learned to combine her passion for technology, dance, and art to bring to life pieces that communicate with the audience through movement, color, and light. She has shown her works at exhibits including Tisch School of the Arts, Lincoln Center, IEEE, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, and Wired Magazine’s NextFest.

Check out our gallery of pictures from SXSW 2013!