M5 - Heliopixel


In our contemporary culture that over privileges high-definition imagining, and measures satisfaction in pixels per inch – 4k, 1080p, retina – Heliopixel is decidedly low-definition. Heliopixel inherits its basic principles from the heliostat, it lives on generic curtain walls and windows while re-actively projects pixelated images onto the interior via reflected sunlight. The projected pixels remain in a constant flux in response to audience behaviors. Here the mechanical movement of the mirrors is foregrounded, likewise the mechanism behind the projection and is in and of itself a performance.

Although Heliopixel reconfigures both the form and experience of lighting, nothing is actually produced – the ‘material’ is simply being recycled. The objective is to weave together atmospheric conditions, and digital technologies within architecture, yet exchange the properties of each other. Thus digital media, normally ephemeral, would become palpable; and sunlight, normally natural and scaleless, is digitized and transformed into obedient pixels.


ADVISOR: Michael Meredith 


Installation at Princeton University SoA
Heliopixel as drawing machine
Heliopixels at the Shanghai Power Station of Art - Curated by Fei Wang for ANOTHER LEAP
Some assembly required. (30min)

The combined time for fabrication and assembly takes about one hour for each unit. The framing is fabricated with laser-cutters and hand assembled all together, certain parts like motors and fasteners are sourced from online suppliersAll the hardware movement is controlled through Arduino UNO R3 with a 16 channel PWM servo shield. An Windows Kinect is used to track audience behaviors. The computer algorithm takes data from the Kinect and lighting environment as input and computes the yaw and pitch degrees of the servos. All the algorithm were written in Firefly, a plugin for Grasshopper and Rhino.

Algorithms were written with Firefly, a plugin for Grasshopper and Rhino.
Arduino Mega / Adafruit 16-channel 12-bit pwm Servo Driver / Dagu Spider Controller / Tower Pro MG90S Micro Servo
Full Video