Inside the 30th anniversary gathering of TED, people are enjoying presentations by the likes of astronaut Chris Hadfield, Bill Gates, Ray Kurzweil, and many others spanning physics, art, design, technology, and more. But outside, you don’t need a ticket to add your influence to one of the world’s largest textile sculptures. You just need a smartphone and to look up.
Above the streets of Vancouver hangs Unnumbered Sparks, an interactive art installation and collaboration between artist Janet Echelman and Google creative director Aaron Koblin. It’s made from ultralight fibers, and hangs from a skyscraper over the water and walkways near the Vancouver Convention Center.
Passersby can connect to the piece through their smartphone or tablet. A special Wi-Fi connection automatically launches the browser app that prompts people to use their fingers on their screen to create shapes and designs projected onto the sculpture in real time as colorful beams of light. According to a blog post by Google Creative Lab’s Jenny Ramaswamy, the interactive lighting “is actually one giant Chrome window, stretched across the 300-foot long sculpture with the help of five high-definition projectors … The result is a crowd-controlled visual experiment on a giant, floating canvas.”
In the making-of video, Echelman says this is the first time her work will allow people to directly influence what they see. “For years I’ve been exploring how to let people to become part of the artwork,” she says in the video. “And now with Aaron’s interactive art, people can actually draw and paint with light and they become co-creators with us.”