The Pool

The Pool

Designer
Jen Lewin Studio
Category
Exhibitions

The Pool

Jen Lewin Studio as Designers

WHAT IS THE POOL


The Pool is an interactive environment where movement creates swirling light and color. Users play on concentric rings of circular pads that communicate with each other wirelessly. As users shift their weight or move from one pad to another, their motions are reflected first on their pad, than broadcast to the other pads in the pool. As multiple users play in the pool, their interactions become mesmerizing patterns of shifting and fading colors.


Imagine a canvas 75 feet long by 75 feet wide, where you can paint and splash color collaboratively. Each pad in The Pool contains its own wireless controller. All of the 106 pads communicate and listen to each other in an organic network formed in the same way people interact. The Pool has no single master computer and does not use a router to route or control connections. Each pad is independent, and simultaneously interacts and listens to its environment based on user feedback and a simple rule set. In this way the Pool is built following many of the same principles of cellular automation. Together the 106 pads create complex, organic, and surprising, color arrays for the participants.


Like a giant game of light “ping pong,” the pool will have users running and jumping, adding, bouncing, and mixing light together.


HOW DOES THE POOL WORK?


Each Pad in The Pool senses the movements of a person. User inputs such as foot location, foot pressure, and speed are sensed by the pad surface. As a person moves, light ripples out to the surrounding pads. For example, by leaning left, a ripple of varying intensity starts in that direction. A stronger more deliberate lean could cause a ripple to jump rings and fill the entire Pool. Ripples vary in light strength, length (the number of pads this message propagates to), and color. Each person’s ripple is unique. As ripples interact with other ripples, an infinite variety of colorful patterns emerge.


A BRIEF TECHNICAL SYNOPSIS


The Pool is composed of 106 pads. Each pad is 3 feet in diameter and 6 inches tall. In plan, The Pool can span anywhere between a 37-foot square (at a compressed scale) to a 75-foot square (at an expanded scale). Each pad in The Pool is composed of a wireless Xbee Controller, a custom microcontroller, a sensor array, 24 RGB LEDs with full color mixing and fading control, and a durable, waterproof, polycarbonate mounded shell Each Pad is created from an extremely durable, formed polycarbonate shell, created for outdoor use. The Pads are made for aggressive interaction and public use. Each Pad is also waterproof and can be placed outdoors in virtually any type of environment and on virtually any type of surface (even within very shallow water). The Pool can run off of a single 110V AC household outlet, a solar array, or a simple, small, outdoor generator. Because the pool is a light installation it is best to operate it at night.


TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS


The Pool is large but simple to install. At full size, it can expand to 75 feet x 75 feet , or at its smallest size it can contract down to 37 feet x 37 feet. Installation involves setting each of the 120 Pool Pads down, applying power (via a power grid created for The Pool that requires 2 normal wattage household outlets), and turning The Pool on. The Pool is water and weather proof, and can be placed outdoors on almost any type of surface. When placed outdoors there are several methods for securing the Pool to the ground. When outside, the pool power cables (show in RED (left)) will need to be either trenched and buried under the ground, or covered (with sod, ground cover, or cable covers.)


Each pad in The Pool communicates with its neighboring pads via a wireless xbee controller. No master computer or technical setup is required. The Pool configures its own network automatically.


STATEMENT OF PRACTICE


For the last 20 years Jen Lewin has been creating large, immersive, interactive art pieces for the public. From interactive sound and light sculptures that inspire people into play, to woven fiber video curtains that reflect movement, or giant, robotic, ethereal moths that dance based on human touch. Lewin’s ability to utilize technology as a medium is rare and unprecedented. She brings an organic, feminine quality to her electronic work that leaves viewers enchanted and surprised. As a trained architect, Lewin’s pieces are often the scale of buildings and rooms. She creates experiences and environments that are both part of, and integrated into, a physical space. For example, her commissioned work “The Pool” spanned almost a quarter acre and involved 120 interactive, glowing, outdoor light platforms that when stood upon, interact with each other. Her 2008 commission “The Moths,” was composed of three giant, translucent, silk robotic moths set to movement based on how someone moves under them.


While Lewin’s pieces may seem very technically complex, she has developed a system that uses her own custom simple raw tools to create complex, robust, interactive works with longevity. Her works can be waterproof and weatherproof. They can survive harsh conditions, and do not require enormous technical maintenance. She uses small microcontrollers and custom electronics that allow her pieces to run for years without upkeep, and provide her with infinite ways to capture user feedback, such as how a person is moving through a space or touching an object. With these tools, Lewin is capable of creating an infinite variety of work that allows her to create magical pieces that capture viewers and engage them in a space. All of Lewin’s work is done in-house, at her studio in Boulder, Colorado.

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Project Credits
Randolph House
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Randolph House

Private Houses
Hawthorn VIC, Australia - Build completed in 2018
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