An Interactive Oasis At Burning Man

An oasis in the desert is the quintessential image of salvation for the wearied wayfarer. At Burning Man 2016, Grove — ten biofeedback tree sculptures — provided a similar, interactive respite from the festival. Each tree has over two thousand LEDs, dozens of feet of steel tube, two Teensy boards used by the custom breath sensors to create festival magic.

Grove works like this: at your approach — detected by dual IR sensors — a mechanical flower blooms, meant to prompt investigation. As you lean close, the breath sensors in the daffodil-like flower detect whether you’re inhaling or exhaling, translating the input into a dazzling pulse of LED light that snakes its way down the tree’s trunk and up to the bright, 3W LEDs on the tips of the branches.

Debugging and last minute soldering in the desert fixed a few issues, before setup — no project is without its hiccups. The entire grove was powered by solar-charged, deep-cycle batteries meant to least from sunset to sunrise — or close enough if somebody forgot to hook the batteries up to charge.

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Breathing motion powered USB charger

When your batteries run low you can use your body to recharge them. This contraption generates power from chest expansion while breathing. [Jmengel] used some gears from old optical drives to boost the RPM generated by a belt around your torso that he calls a thorax expansion coupler. When you breath in, that belt pulls on a plate that spins the gears, ultimately rotating a small motor. The AC current generated by that motor is run through a rectifier and a boost converter, then fed to a charging circuit.

Does it work? Not really, as this only outputs around 50 mW. But we like the twinge of Dune nostalgia we get looking at it. Wouldn’t this be a perfect addition to a stillsuit?