Highwire

In 2012, I co-designed and prototyped an interactive installation with the University of Michigan’s Taubman School of Architecture and the Office of Enabling Technologies; it is currently on display at the North Campus Research Complex in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Highwire

Project Scope & Background

The North Campus Research Complex (NCRC) wanted to encourage richer communication between researchers with an installation project in a well-traveled corridor. An applied research funding project at the university enabled involvement from both the Taubman School of Architecture and the School of Information.

Initial Designs

Designed over several weeks, Highwire aimed to increase and enhance interdisciplinary conversations by presenting a responsive, collaborative workspace. My partners and I selected voice and motion as vital, measurable interpersonal signals that could be detected in the space and represented visually. Our goal was for this visual representation to reflect nearby discussions and activity, and in turn, embody the collaborative nature of the research complex.

Early rounds of prototyping Highwire

Prototyping

We identified the appropriate sensors and microcontrollers necessary to start experimenting with visualizations and arrangement. Ultimately, we devised a network of Arduinos, addressable LED strips, infrared motion sensors, and microphones to feed into a prototype that detected nearby conversations and movement, reflecting them back into the space through color changes in the lighting. The prototype was then scaled out to several modules across the entire installation.

Highwire at night

Structure

The structure itself was designed and fabricated by a team of students from the Taubman School of Architecture. My partners and I designed the interactive installation within the constraints of the structure’s design and its location within the research complex.

Axiometric view of the Highwire structure