News / Ottawa

Social media FireFly will light the night at Nuit Blanche


Bright ideas for Ottawa's second all-night Nuit Blanche art party are forming fast and one social media experiment promises to light the way.

An art collective of graphic designers and software developers will release roughly 200 to 250 wearable FireFly Lumipendants into the night at the party September 22 and track how they interact after winning the $1,000 July grant from Awesome Ottawa.

"I love the fact that people wear them and that it’s their actions that affect the pattern of light," said graphic designer and web developer Mark Stephenson of the small bug-shaped circuit boards decorated with eight colourful LED lights. "As you interact with more pendants, it will take on different characteristics. It starts to reflect your activity and those you've met."

The small devices are equipped with an Arduino circuit board, which allows users to create interactive electronic objects using the open-source electronic prototyping platform. With the JAVA programming language, the chip can be tailored for many functions. In the FireFly project it communicates with the other devices to share and adopt different light patterns.

"This thing can mess with televisions," said Darcy Whyte, a software developer writing FireFly's code. "Using code we shut down all the TVs at Atomic Rooster. The Ardoino board can listen in and discover repeating signals, store them and repeat them later," he said, adding that it mimics a TV remote.

"I consider it a light installation where people are part of it," said Stephenson of the piece. "Down the pipe, there is the ability to gather data off the device. It might be interesting to do visualization on the Internet of the social behaviour of various people."

The idea the group is focused on right now is to expose more people to the open-source technology and encourage them to take their FireFly from Nuit Blanche and repurpose it in some way.

"We really hope that they live on in secondary uses," said Stephenson, pointing out that they will offer workshops on how to program the Ardoino board at Ottawa's Mini-Maker Faire August 31.

"We do want to sell them afterwards," Stephenson said, adding they would be priced at $40. "The design of the board itself is going to be contributed to the open-source community."

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