Swarm Light at Art Basel

What has 9000 LEDs, 3000 MSP430 processors, six XMOS XC-2 Ethernet modules, and goes blinkity-blink-blink? It’s Swarm Light, an art installation shown at this year’s Art Basel exhibition. [Fredrik Petrini] worked on the hardware that went into building the group of three 3D cubes of LED light modules. Unlike so many art pieces we see he shared the design details of the piece. In the image above you can tell that each cube encompasses several rods of LED modules. Each rod as three rails that provide power, ground, and serial data in addition to serving as the physical structure. Each module has three LEDs on it controlled by one MSP430 processor. The XMOS units each control half of the rods in a cube, getting their instructions over an Ethernet connection from a PC running a program on a .NET framework. It would be an understatement to say this is just a upscaled LED cube. Check out the exhibit in action after the break. It uses an algorithm to analyze the music, taking input from the ambient sound in the room, to control the light fluctuation.

[Thanks Paul]

19 thoughts on “Swarm Light at Art Basel

  1. I actually dont like these LED-cube kind-of-things.. It seems to me that all that comes out of it is a blurry mass of light.
    But i dont know if this is because it is not recorded in stereo vision, and that you would get an idea of the 3D-structure, if you saw it in real life? :)

  2. I’ve always been amazed at art projects like that. There has to be a genera for the style but I can’t think of what it would be called.

    Somewhere (maybe on here before) I saw a display of hundreds of balls, each suspended from a string and controlled by computer to raise up and down forming different shapes or landscapes. It was for a car, if I remember correctly.

  3. yay a hack from switzerland :P
    there is a similar “3d cube” hanging in the central station in zĂĽrich. ive seen it working a couple of times but it seemed pretty basic. http://www.nova.ethz.ch/ is the homepage for it for those who are interested. seems like i have to go to basel sometime soon. the video dosent seem that impressiv but as pointed out earlier we miss the whole 3d thing….

  4. I’ve always wanted to do a 3-D LED project, but never could figure out anything really nice to display, without getting overly complicated.

    Sound is more or less a 2D sort of thing, amplitude and something else like frequency. You can add time to it, but I don’t think the brain really “sees” it that way.

    Cool I idea the way they did it. FAR, FAR bigge than anything *I* would have done.

  5. While it may be difficult to see in 2D on a web page or video, I bet this looks pretty cool in the real world. A souped-up Winamp plugin..

    The concept is awesome, though I wonder if it would be worth expanding this idea across entire rooms on all four walls…the ambient lighting this creates would be incredible in dance clubs, restaurants, office lobbies, bars, w/ RGB LEDs, etc.

    Well done!

  6. Is it just me, is everyone a little dissapointed in every sound visualizer that they come across? I feel that none of them are terribly responsive to the beat or notes of the tune?

    I wish they were perfectly tapped into pitch and rhythm haha! A project for the future?

  7. @sneakypoo
    Yep, thats it. I was sitting at a friends house tonight and that comercial came on.. Now my friends think I’m even weirder because I started going on about suspended art displays.

  8. The post a few months back about the art installation using a projector and a bunch of hanging threads achieved a better effect I think…Or it could just be that we miss the full visual effect though the video. The projector and strings in the dark room looked incredibly 3D.

  9. ohmsresistance: Why did you feel the need to drop your video into the middle of this discussion? It’s totally unrelated. I’m impressed with the project, and it should probably get its own headline in Hackaday…not a hijack of someone else’s thread.

    All that said, the wii controller looks very awkward to me…holding your arm and hand ‘just so’ or the boat’s gonna go awry. Seems like it would be better mounted somehow. Is a wii controller waterproof?

  10. They need to design one of these with a few mics in the cube. Then use a computer to computer the direction of a sound source (such as clapping) that occurs near the cubes. Then you make the dark spots move away from the light. That would be a cool effect.

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