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Jelly Swarm [Air]

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Created by Tangible Intervention (the public art arm of Tangible Interaction) in collaboration with origami artist, Joseph Wu, Jelly Swarm is a public artwork for the Vancouver Aquarium in BC, Canada.  The installation features 94 folded origami jellies, each containing an LED light module, suspended from a custom aluminum structure.

Inspired by the luminescent jellies found off the British Columbia coast, Jelly Swarm mimics their natural, reactive light behaviour.  It allows visitors to excite the origami jellies into creating beautiful colour and light patterns from a touch screen controller.  When left undisturbed by the public, the jellies interact with their closest neighbours, triggering random generative displays of coloured light.

The first step was to start shaping custom structural elements in 3D.  Grasshopper, a graphic algorithm editor, was used us to exploit a surface geometry. Using basic computational geometry, the positional relationship between adjoining triangles was processed with the Visual Basic scripts to generate connectors which hold the triangles together.  ID labels for every piece of the design were also created using the same scripts.  The resulting structure, fabricated from 2mm 6061T6 aluminum, water jet cut and anodized on both sides, includes 154 generated triangles and 430 connector pieces.  94 vertices provided hanging points for the origami jellies. The jellies, designed by origami master, Joseph Wu, were laser cut and scored in Tyvek, then folded and the LED modules inserted in each.

A custom built Adobe Air application was developed within Flash Builder to interact with the Swarm.  The data describing neighbouring relationships between triangles in the 3D model was streamed from Grasshopper and fed to the Air application creating a structural channel for the jellies to interact with each other. Each jelly LED module was programmed as a totally self-contained object capable of interacting with its closest jelly neighbours using a simple programming interface.  Jellies within the swarm interact with each other through various automated behaviours until interrupted by external user intervention – visitors engaging with a small touch screen controller mounted in a plinth.

Jelly Swarm is located in the Pacific Canada Pavilion gallery at the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park until the end of February 2012.

Concept: Alex Beim & Joseph Wu, Design: Reynaldo Tortoledo & Alex Beim, Design Assist: Pam Troyer & Kenji Rodriguez, Engineering Consultant: Leigh Christie, Jelly Design & Fabrication: Joseph Wu, Programming: Reynaldo Tortoledo & Pablo Gindel, Electronics: Dong Yang & Mike Manning, Production: Andy Meakin

Project Page

Commissioned by Rebecca Eames at Vancouver Aquarium