Mosaic is a modular lighting system. Created as part of my Masters thesis in 2010. (Apps weren’t as wide-spread as they are today ;)) The cross-shaped tiles can be mounted to the wall and interconnected in any configuration. Physical tokens can be magnetically attached to the tiles creating (by programming the tile) their pre-set content at the location of that specific tile. The light effect induced by the tokens can span many tiles. It’s a completely distributed, node-based system. Research question of the study was: When leds become for free (due to the rapid decline in cost); and we will have spaces with 100k’s of light sources embedded; how are we going to interact with them?
The tiles have two different modes of light; Decorative, coloured light in the center panel and Ambient global illumination via the “legs” by reflection via the walls.
The intention of the central panels was to make a structure that would enable coloured lighting patterns with a higher fidelity than just one plane lit in one colour. That’s what a typical led-panel would have given. While searching for a technical solution I hit a solution that makes it more “airy”; more transparent such that the structure and texture of the wall behind the panels become visible to make the whole structure blend much better into the environment.
The center plates are made from transparent acrylic commonly used as light guides. In this case an out-coupling structure (white dots on the surface) was added to the acrylic to get the light out of the guide so you can see it. Just injecting different colours of light into a normal light guide just mix to a more or less homogeneous average color. To achieve the texturing horizontal and vertical lasercuts were made basically achieving a 5×5 light guide matrix. Light can pass straight trough to subsequent cells; but not to adjacent cells (due to total internal reflection). By having leds around the perimeter and using such grid it’s possible to make high fidelity light patterns while still keeping the structure transparent.
The tokens are small devices that can be magnetically attached to the tile at the location where you’d like the effect. They are pre-programmed; themed tokens you would buy at a retail store or online, like you would buy games or Nespresso coffee capsules. These tokens could be very basic and only embed a static effect; or they could be more complex with dynamic animations, embedded sensors or theme specific interfaces. Ofcourse there were already apps around in 2010 although they weren’t as pervasive as they are today. However, I still went with a “physical interaction” approach. The biggest benefit can be found in the instant mental model people have of the state of the system by just having a look at it on the wall. That may sound complicated; but means that you can instantly see what tokens are responsible for what effect and how and where to make adjustments if you’d like. Something which can become very complex to do in an app in case you would have systems with 100s of tiles and 10s of tokens.
Some of the basic tokens like the coloured blobs or reading tokens aren’t very interesting; however by combining them it becomes a nice little creative project.