You walk into a dim room. You become aware of a mass hovering in the distance. As you draw near, you see that it’s a cloud made up of thousands of ping-pong-ball-sized spheres–and you see that it’s hovering over a pool of water. Then, suddenly, it comes to life, with blue lasers dancing and drawing on those thousands of surfaces. And finally, as you step right up to the edge of the suspended mass, you realize something else: your movement is controlling the lasers.
Is this dynamic sculpture? Light art? A nifty bit of 3-D projection mapping? To its creators at the Berlin-based design studio WhiteVOID, it’s a little bit of all the above. Fluidic, as the project is called, is a hybrid installation intended to bridge the digital and physical worlds. And it’s yet another incredible example of how a simple gaming peripheral, the Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect, can help artists and designers create completely new experiences.
In this case, the installation actually uses six of the things. Both the Kinects and the lasers surround the piece in 360 degrees, allowing visitors at the Temporary Museum for New Design in Milan, where it’s installed, to view and interact with it from any vantage point.
It took the WhiteVOID team seven months to complete the installation in all, with three weeks dedicated to stringing the 12,000 spheres on 4,100 strings. Sure, we may be able to dynamically map photons with sophisticated 3-D motion sensors, but someone’s still got to put the whole thing together by hand.