midterm // project proposal

Submitted by njohn on Fri, 02/15/2013 - 14:03

group members: nathan john, marie kirkegaard, john scott

// problematic //

Our urban spaces at night are filled with areas that cause pedestrians to feel vulnerable.  You are nervous when walking into darkened areas, underpasses.  You are unseen and alone.  

Our response to this darkness is also acute when we are in our homes - unlit areas represent a source of unknown threats.  A frequent response, at the domestic level, is the automatic floodlight.  As a pedestrian, the instantaneous inversion of environment generated by these lights is disorienting, startling.  The uneasy dark is exchanged without warning for uninvited illumination.

// proposal //
As a response to these conditions, we propose a remediation:  an interactive, responsive light installation consisting of two parts.

// part a //

A wall-mounted light gently glows during the hours of darkness.  As a user/pedestrian approaches, the light gradually increases in intensity. Max intensity is achieved when the user is directly adjacent to the light, which then dims again as the user walks away.  The fundamental utility of a floodlight is maintained, while the experience of the pedestrian is greatly improved.  Such lights are also suitable for a wider range of sites than the standard floodlight.

// part b //

As the pedestrian passes the light, their location is registered by a separate sensor, linked to a projector, which is fed with a short animation of an inverted human shadow (where a natural shadow is the absence of light, the inverted shadow is the presence of bright light in the same shape).  These "white shadows" are projected onto a ground plane or wall surface adjacent to the pedestrian, giving them “company” as they pass through the previously dark area.

// implementation //

For the nicelight, a combination of ultrasound distance sensors and a variable-output RGB led array might be used.

For the shadow projection, ultrasound distance sensors, or some other method of human-location (as in the Climate Wall example) would be combined with a projector.

// inspirational sources //

The Climate Wall
The Climate Wall was an installation based in Aarhus, Denmark, trying to engage the citizens of Aarhus in the climate debate. Projections of words on a wall tracked the people passing the wall, using an analogy of word magnets used on fridges. We are inspired by the way they enabled the technology to attach projected elements to moving objects.

Tracing Shadows Street Art
In “Tracing Shadows,” street artist Ellis Gallagher creates chalk outlines of environment shadows (such as street signs, trash cans, etc.) as a means of revealing the shadow’s temporality in space. The white/light colors of his outlines placed in sharp contrast to the blackness of the shadows inspired our idea of inverting the blackness of shadows, and creating illuminated shadows, which weren’t scary like “The Boogeyman” shadows that danced on our bedroom walls as children, but rather became friendly companions when traversing scary places in urban environments, like dark overpasses and back alleys.

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