The Swarm Wall was the other half of the museum installation that I helped Michael Theodore out with last summer by again providing the lighting design for it. The concept was simple: each of the coils hanging on the wall oscillated back and forth and rubbed against the PVC pipes that were glued to the wall, creating interesting sounds. The trick was that they each had their own motor controlled by a custom circuit board that was in turn controlled by a laptop running a special program that took input from hypersonic (think dog whistle) sensors embedded in the lower portion of the wall. A person walking close to the wall set off the sensor, which set off the coils. The neat thing was the program “learned” from each interaction, and as time went on, the program changed the behavior of the individual coils. Each circuit/motor/coil also talked to each other via ethernet, and they also “learned” from each other. The inspiration for this madness was a scientist who studied “swarming” behavior in animals and fishes, and he and a software design engineer and an electronics design engineer brought their knowledge to bear in writing the program’s code and designing the custom made circuit/motor boards.
These images are screen captures taken from this video: