Art Installation, 2012

Collaborators: Hiroshi Jacobs, Spaghetti on a Stick, Kash Bennett, Jasmina Lopez, Sam Mrozinski, Alana Thurmond, Chris Weimann

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The Play It Forward installation, inspired by the geometry of movement, is sculptural in form and was designed and constructed using advanced parametric and digital fabrication methods. Strategically located sensors on the piece identify activity and respond with visual feedback. Passersby interact with the installation by playing a simple game with the sensors and LED lighting, and by playing donate to charity. A digital read-out shows the amount of money that has been donated through play, and using the latest in mobile web technology players are encouraged to spread the word about their experience with their social networks. Play It Forward was funded through a small grant from the 24 Hour City project and was displayed at the closing party of Digital Capital Week 2011. RTKL Associates, Inc. generously provided a stipend which was donated to the charity KaBOOM! through Play It Forward gameplay. KaBOOM! fights childhood obesity by building playgrounds in needy neighborhoods and advocating nutrition and physical fitness. Support was provided from students and facilities at The Catholic University of America, School of Architecture and Planning.

Consistent with the idea of play, the form of the installation is meant to suggest motion, but it is also a discretized geometry that is constructed as a series of economically optimized units. This rationalization not only produces a heightened expression of curvature by marking deviation from the original surface, but also speaks to the ability of computational optimization to navigate between sketch and performance.

The project was from the very beginning intended to be a fluid amalgam of design, technology, and social action. As educators and researchers, the designers have a keen interest in how the use of technology can affect the product of design (geometry, space, aesthetics), but beyond that they also study how technology can enable design to positively impact lives. As practicing designers, they are especially interested in how the logics and techniques of this project can apply to real-world architecture.

The Play It Forward installation integrates several technologies which work together to provide a fun charitable experience. The project was designed, from concept to construction automation, using computer programming and geometry based mathematics. CNC machines were used in the fabrication of the physical artifact. Physical-digital interaction was accomplished through the use of an Arduino microcontroller, a series of photoelectric sensors, and LED lighting. As the game is played, the microcontroller transmits game data via processing to an internet data hosting website called Pachube, which in turn is accessed by a custom-developed website that displayed statistics about the most-recent game. Players access the website on their smart phones by scanning an individualized QR code that is displayed on an Apple iPad near the installation. Although none of the individual technologies used in the installation is particularly new or ground-breaking, it brings parametric design, digital fabrication, interactive sensor-driven technology, web-enabled data hosting, social networking, and charitable donation together in a unique a way to affect social change.

Play It Forward has 432 hardware connections, 72 sensors, 288 LED’s, and more than 1,000 feet of electrical wiring. The material is white polyethylene on MDF.