Posted tagged ‘sensor’

PIR lights

November 16, 2009

The small magnetic lights arrived from Hong Kong but they don’t work all that great. They are supposed to work with a magnet that once pulled away from the unit cause the light to switch on. They are advertised to be used in say a cupboard where the magnet would be attached to the inside of the door and the light would be attached to the underside of the top of the cupboard. So when you open the door the light turns on. However, they seem to be a little temperamental and have either stopped working completely or decide to switch on or off in an erratic manner unrelated to the location of the magnet. They are also actually much smaller than I thought. But then that’s the risk of purchasing something from ebay I guess. They only cost about £4 so it was worth the risk.

Small lights activated with magnets

Small lights activated with magnets

Anyway I thought they could be used in some inventive way. I thought of maybe attaching the magnets to wands and getting people to turn the lights on from hidden places under my possible sculptures? Or some other hidden form of physical interaction where the person wouldn’t know a magnet was involved and would just assume it was all touch based. Hmm, if only I could create something touch based – but I’ve realised my skills in programming will not be advancing any time soon.

I’m actually quite wary of even going down that route – not only because I know I am not going to have time but also because I think I can find alternative solutions that allow more time for experimentation and proto-typing instead. Plus the pattern-making takes up the majority of my time. I don’t mind this as I still enjoy this very much, but it means I need to manage my time especially efficiently.

The disappointment of these small lights led me to Maplin where I purchased a much chunkier light which actually uses PIR (passive infra-red) to detect movement and so turns on automatically. This is designed for in-door/garage use and works well for what it is. The light seems to have a bit of a blue tinge to it though.

PIR light

PIR light - you can see comparative size of this to the smaller lights and the small pin I left on the desk but which highlights the scale of proportion

The down-side is that there is no flexibility in terms of how long the light stays on for (dependent on movement being continuous) and it has only 3 modes:

– On all the time,
– Off all the time,
– or automatic activation which only works in the dark and when movement is detected.

I did a bit of testing with this and it turns on as soon as you get a few feet near it. But the light doesn’t reach far enough and this I think will pose safety issues unless I have some other dim but permanent source of light also in the room/space I exhibit it.

During my tests I stuck my reflective cut-out onto the ceiling near a corner at a curved angle so that it looked like a web hanging down.

Shadow_vs_reflection - hanging pattern

Hanging reflective pattern cut-out. This was with the light on - one side shows the reflected pattern and the other shows the shadow - both stand out very well

I then switched the lights off and used the PIR light as if it were a torch moving around with it. The cool thing about this is that it deals with a very strong aspect of the interaction I was hoping for.

(I have a video of this but it’s a bit jumpy and has me having a conversation over it so I need to remove the audio before it can be viewed. As soon as it’s sorted I will post it up so be sure to look out for it as I think it’s come out quite good).

Here’s a shot before I made the video – not the best but conveys how it looks in the dark (light source being the large PIR unit I mentioned above):

Shadow_vs_reflection - hanging pattern

Once again shadow vs reflection - a nice line of symmetry shown here

I wanted the light and work to be affected by the motions of the viewer. Carrying the source of light means that the light is in constant motion and as it reflects off of the surface of the work the projected reflections as well as the shadows are also in constant motion.

SO I think this is a significant development – and although it seems a bit funny when I think about how someone new to the work might view it in a physical sense, I also think it will be quite fun.

So my objectives for the next week or so is to think of ways to present this light source to the viewer, look into how they may use this, carry it, interact with it and what the dangers of this might be (if there are any).

I also need to speak to Andy about how dark I can have the space in which I install my work and what restrictions I may face.

As for the actual sculptural materials – I am currently seeking advice on what can and cannot be laser-cut, what is flexible enough to be re-shaped or moulded after having been cut and how I might be able to mount/display these.

And finally – we have our Unit 1 assessment due in early December which is when we not only have to have a proto-type ready but also have an online curated page which illustrates how we have met the learning outcomes for that Unit. I’m pretty sure the curating part will not be too difficult in terms of finding content, but it will be tricky deciding which posts are most significant in conveying my developments. This will be the true test to see if all my tagging and categorisation was done well.

On an unrelated note but one that is concerning me is that I realised I didn’t put enough quotes in my essay. Actually I am shocked at the lack of them and can only imagine I was out of my mind at the time not to have done so. Now I just want to hurry up and know my marks so that I can stop worrying and move on.

Excitement begins

October 3, 2009

I am experiencing a surge of brainstorming (I am told this is no longer a P.C word but I can’t remember what the new term is so no offence to anyone) in relation to the work I must complete by December for my assessment.

We’ve been told we should have something along the lines of a proto-type complete for that stage in our course but with all these new and exciting ideas I want to have more than just one project outcome.

I am very excited about creating the physical pieces that reflect the research I’ve been doing for the last year and have been particularly thinking about the space in which my work will be displayed,shown or installed.

There are many different ways a person can present their work and these have inspired me to think of all alternatives – not just as Plan B’s in case my main work doesn’t turn out how I wish but also as accompaniments.

At the moment I am contemplating having 3d shapes with patterns either on, around or made up from the patterns. It’s hard to explain this so I’ll leave it to when I have some pictures once I get experimenting with the shapes.

I have been doing some very bad sketches in my notebook in order to consider how lighting needs to be placed within a rectangular room for example. There also the need to consider where a person might enter from and how they may navigate through the space according to what first comes into their sight. This is very important because I am planning to have my work illuminate itself based on the viewer’s movement into the space. They need to be able to see where to go for safety reasons but it also needs to be dark enough for the light to make the right kind of effect when it comes on. I also need to consider if my work will be one large focul piece or made up of three or four pieces.

Page 1 of sketches and notes

Page 1 of sketches and notes

Page 2 of sketches and ideas

Page 2 of ideas

These sculptures/shapes also need to fit to either the walls, floor or ceiling but with the light source either pointing towards or from behind them. Once again I won’t know which is best till I try it out. The light source itself is also something I am looking closely into. In my last tutorial Andy and I discussed sensor activated lighting and he agreed this may be the right thing for me to use. I’ve had a look at PIR lighting products and am trying to find something wireless which would be less of a safety concern as well as less shabby looking once up. Pricing is also a factor and how it might be fitted to walls/ceilings.

Another really cool idea I had was to have a sort of very large 3d hollow shape, perhaps made from card or papier mache (or maybe something a bit like stiff canvas or whatever is used to make lampshades), hanging from the ceiling but high enough off the ground to allow someone to pass under it. As they would come closer it would light up and then they would be standing beneath it. When they look up into the work they would see layers of shapes cut into the material and these would overlap so that the shadows and holes would create an ever complicated pattern. What I imagine in my head certainly looks quite spectacular. I wonder if I can actually achieve it.

It reminds me of the Muqarnas found in many mosques around the world, some of the most famous being at the Al-Hambra in Spain and at the Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran as seen in the image below. It is a very interesting architectural feature which I will just show you instead of trying to explain:

Muqarnas at the Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. Image from

Muqarnas at the Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. Image from

And yet at the same time what I have imagined also reminds me of a kaleidoscope. As my youngest sister was sitting next to me as I jotted this down I asked her if she knew what a Kaleidoscope was. She’s ten years old and, well, her generation is quite different to mine so I can well imagine that they aren’t likely to be as familiar with a non-electronic/digital toy such as a good old kaleidoscope. And I was right, she didn’t know what it was so I did a quick search and had a look through google images as I explained it to her. I then came across this very interesting image of a human mirrored kaleidoscope:

These kids are clearly having fun, and it means they are engaging with the space too. The effect is brilliant and I think if I could adopt this in some way but have my patterns in there too then it would just be sooo good. But I’m not sure if it would be over ambitious for me to go down this route, least of all because I’d have to actually build an enclosed space with mirrors inside. Or maybe I could make a cheap and tatty/plasticky version? We’ll see. But the use of mirrors is certainly worth keeping in mind.

All in all I am really getting into this and I knew it would be the stage I would enjoy the most. I may be thinking about some of the aspects of the installation a little to early but this is how I have always worked – I like to get down to the nitty gritty much in advance so that I have contingency time as well as other work in place if needed.