250 Glowing Umbrellas Are 'Pixels' in a Luminous, Collaborative Spectacle

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

The experimental dance group Pilobolus has worked with numerous artists including the band OK Go, but most recently they teamed up with MIT's Distributed Robotics Lab to create an interactive performance powered by umbrellas and LEDs. At the PopTech conference in Camden, Maine, this October, they equipped dozens of participants with the MIT-designed umbrellas that can glow either red, green, or blue when a switch is flipped.

A swarm of umbrella-wielding folks coordinated an entire light show by watching a projection of an aerial video feed of the scene. "We see it as a very large scale experiment for how social dynamics work, so how individuals can make decisions that then affect the larger result that's achieved by the group," Kyle Gilpin, a postdoctoral researcher at the MIT lab, says. "Especially when you put 250 people together as co-owners and co-creators of something, you end up with a situation where no one is the author," the executive director of Pilobolus, Itamar Kobovy, adds. "The whole is much greater than the sum of all the individual parts." The best part of the night? It did in fact rain, and "the water only added to the psychedelic look and feel."

The Umbrella Project is a collaboration between Pilobolus, Robby Barnett, Matt Kent, Itamar Kubovy, the MIT Distributed Robotics Laboratory, Professor Daniela Rus, Kyle Gilpin and Cagdas Onal. The video was produced by Oriel Pe'er. PopTech collects some Instagram photos of the event here. Now, where does one purchase one of these lovely raver umbrellas? 

For more work by Pilobolus, visit http://www.pilobolus.com/.

Via PopTech

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2012/10/250-glowing-umbrellas-are-pixels-in-a-luminous-collaborative-spectacle/264305/