Garbage Lights

Submitted by soren svejstrup on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 19:57


We were inspired to develop a project of interactive lights for a Burning Man art car but we have decided to decouple them from this context in exchange for one of a dim lit museum wall similar to something that can be replicated inside the classroom where our class takes place.

Essentially garbage lights is an art piece which is intended to afford people an interaction with an esthetically pleasing sculpture of light and garbage.

The input, a tap, a hit, a collision or a drop are among the physical actions that are intended to be captured. Each input will output to a long LED strip that will behave accordingly to its input, thus for example a piezo vibration sensor will vibrate in accordance to the medium that was struck. We plan to have at least 12 sensor/LED components allowing for multi person participation.

As for the physical composition of Garbage Lights we intend to locate an analog vibration sensitive sensor within an iconic piece of garbage such as 5 gallon water jugs like the ones found in the first floor lounge of South Hall. Having 12 or more of these tethered as a bundle from the ceiling will create a hanging ball of plastic and will function as the mechanism of interaction. Multiple strips of LEDs hang horizontally in proximity to the gallery wall projecting both into the wall as well as towards the spectators creating matizes of light, color and contrast as the bottles collide or are struck. A classic example of a device that assimilates to this interaction is the “executive pacifier” or collision balls but our proposition is more chaotic.

We are worried about a disconnection between the ball of plastic and the LED wall for which we intend to include to the hanging plastic a pulsing light that gets excited as people proximate to the interactive component, thus drawing observers into interaction with the plastic bottles. This pulsing LED will be within one of the water jugs. This, we hope, will invite the user to approach and interact with the piece. The plastic bottles, unlike other materials used in an art spaces, are unbreakable and do not steer people to behave by the norm of “please do not touch”, thus warranting a high rate of discovery of the tangible interface.

We experimented with piezo vibration sensors and achieved intriguing results. We discovered that the medium affected the reverberation, and this could be seen clearly in the feedback granted by the light, something is not easily visualized by just looking at the medium,  which in our experimental case was a tennis racket. The subtle analog resonants or reverberations of a medium is what we are interested in displaying and we believe that with it a creation of an intriguing matizes of light from our output medium is possible.

Another consideration that we have thought of is the implementation of a sound component, one that would react similarly to how the LEDs react to input. A glass shattering sound could be generated each time a sensor is exited. That said this is a component that we believe is secondary and additional to our Garbage Light project.

To present our project we require a space that is as dark as possible since this will enhance the experience and the scale of contrast provided by the light aspect of the project. A ladder to setup the piece would be ideal.

Bill of Materials:


TIP120 Transistors



piezo vibration sensors.

5 gallon water jugs.

Sonar sensor.





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