20,000 Reactive LEDs Mimic Bioluminescent Corals

Shine a torch at Universal Assembly Unit's 'Light Pollination' and it will respond with bursts of illumination.

by Kevin Holmes
23 September 2016, 1:25pm

GIF courtesy of the artists

It looks like a kind of bioluminescent coral reef, except it's composed of fiber optics and a living organism isn't causing it to radiate light—but 20,000 LEDs are. The installation is a new piece, called Light Pollination, from multidisciplinary studio Universal Assembly Unit (William Gowland, Samantha Lee, Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu, and Zhan Wang). It was commissioned by iGuzzini for the London Design Festival.

The interactive piece responds to light at certain pollination points. Shine your phone torch at it, and it will erupt back in "swarming bursts" of illumination across the surface. Sensors embedded at the end of some of the fiber optic cables will denote the reaction of the piece depending on the intensity of the light source shining on it.

"The space is filled with the beeping and chirping of digital crickets that escalate and calm down with the intensity of light," explains Lee to The Creators Project. "Sounding like a hybrid of insects and data transmissions." Custom-built software allows the group to control so many lights, taking the information from the sensors and create what Lee refers to as "turbulence fields that are disturbing the trails of light." It's what gives the piece its naturalistic, entrancing movement. 

Image courtesy of the artists

"Our inspirations came from light found in nature, for example fire flies and deep sea water creatures that use bioluminescence for methods of communication or warning signals." notes Lee. "Living light has a whole spectrum of behaviours and expressions so we wanted to explore how artificial light could react and talk back."

Although it takes inspiration from nature, it also explores ideas of the future cityscape and how interactive technology will effect public infrastructure.

"We were interested in the idea of a sentient city, as ubiquitous computing has embedded technology in our everyday objects and built environments." says Lee. "Lighting in architecture and cities is often overlooked as ambient and utilitarian, so our piece imagines a more expressive way of interacting with artificial light that reflects the dynamism of human interaction."

Image courtesy of the artists

Image courtesy of the artists

Image courtesy of the artists

Image courtesy of the artists Light Pollination is on at the London Design Festival now until September 25, 2016. Find out more about Universal Assembly Unit on their website here. Find out more about the London Design Festival here.


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London Design Festival
Universal Assembly Unit
Light Pollination