This project was
commisioned to GK Tech by Kansai Electric Company located in Osaka, which has a large
headquarters building in the city. The goal was to create an interactive
installation for an outdoor platform which overlooks the high-rise.
On top of Kansai building, there is an array of blue and white neon tubes arranged into an
undulating shape and displaying an aurora-like animation governed by the motion of the wind.
The sensing of wind velocity and corresponding animation has been previously developed by GK.
(A similar animated display, also by GK Tech, can be seen on top of Mirai-kan science museum
The installation we developed for Kansai was a bean-shaped object attached to a railing
on the observation platform at shoulder-height, allowing visitors to interact with it by
touching its surface. The object takes its shape from the
neon light arrangement of Kansai building and it is illuminated from the inside by strips of
blue and white LEDs that mirror the large display animation. A grid of infrared sensors is
intersperced between the LED lights on the inside of the bean, allowing its entire surface
to become responsive to near-proximity. By touching or sweeping hands across the plastic
surface, visitors can affect the animation of lights on the installation as well as the
large neon display visible at a distance.
I feel very fortunate to have had a chance to work on this project at GK as it
represents a culmination and something of a personal "next-step" in terms of technical
possibilities explored over the last few years.
As this installation required an integration of a rather large number of LEDs and sensors
updated in real-time, we decided to implement a hardware pipeline using programmable
logic (FPGA) architecture.
The final design utilized two small boards by HumanData based on
Spartan-3 FPGA family by Xilinx, together providing 128 channels of (normalized, 256-level)
PWM output for LEDs and 32 channels of sensor input (for a total 256 sensors),
processed in parallel.
A working prototype of the installation was developed in the spring 2005, after many a 120-yen
milk coffee and some number of sleepless nights debugging VHDL code with an oscilloscope ;)
Kansai Electric Power Co.
New KEPCO Building
I didn't get to visit the building intended for the installation, but this may be it..
the site seems to catalog every highrise in Japan!
Xilinx Spartan-3 FPGAs
A family of low-cost FPGAs compatible with the company's free ISE WebPack HDL synthesis environment.