Light Kinetics: In The Loop

Creative Studio, Espadaysantacruz, Allows You to Control the Speed of Light

‘The real challenge is to achieve such a degree of simplicity, whilst having a complicated digital system behind it,’ Miguel v. Espada of Espadaysantacruz, explained about the creative studio’s latest interactive installation, Light Kinetics.

The creation, which was presented at the interactive night at IED Madrid design school, uses a physics simulator to control the light. It allows the user to control how fast light travels along the light-bulb loop, depending on how hard you tap on the first light bulb.

‘We believe that interactive installations should be simple and clean,’ Miguel went on. ‘We always use the most organic gesture as input. In this case, tapping the first bulb is very natural because you have an immediate feedback.’

The Madrid-based, research-driven creative studio focuses primarily on using technology as an expressive media, and as a medium for visual storytelling.

We had a chat with Miguel, to be more in the loop:

The Plus: What is the story behind the concept of this installation?
Miguel v. Espada:
We have been researching for a long time with different metaphors of light. Light has an incredible expressive power, specially “old fashion” devices like tungsten bulbs. They have a stronger connection with the material world than LED and other fixtures.
We play with the double personality of light: wave and particle. In Light Kinetics the “magic” comes from the fact that we put light under the law of mechanics.

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TP: Could you talk us through the technical process of developing Light Kinetics?
MvE:
Light kinetics uses a physics simulator to control the light. In other words, we have a simple computer program that simulates the behavior of ball. We can change its mass and drag, and apply different forces in real time to make it move along a loop. The simulator is built using Unity3D that is a video-game engine. We use the output of the simulator to switch on and off the bulbs, creating a sort of chain reaction.
We’ve used a piezoelectric microphone connected to an Arduino to capture the first impulse.

TP: What are your creative collaborative processes like? How do you find the best way to work together?
MvE:
At Espadaysantacruz, you can find very different backgrounds: engineers, artists, designer, photographers and cultural managers, contributing to every project. This makes every piece unique because it is the sum of different perspectives.

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Team: Alejandro López Bravo, Lucas Ortíz, Sara Kieninger and Fernando Urquijo