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Creative Labs

Illuminate Wave


April Ding, Bryan Ong, Meena Nagappan

2018.1 - 2018.3

Getty Images: Nature Picture Library

Inspiration: bioluminescent planktons shining in wave actions. (Getty Images / Nature Picture Library)

Inspired by bioluminescent dinoflagellates shining in the waves during plankton bloom, Illuminate • Wave is an interactive lamp that synchronizes with ambient music and casts rippling shadows on the ground. It was made with IV drip, flask, opaque paper, and Arduino Light. We believe that art-making is an intimate interaction between the artists, the work, and the environment, so it’s not just about the aesthetics, the visual experience that it offers, but also the interactions between the user, the piece, and the artist. This product has multiple layers that inspire the users to be more aware of the surroundings and the natural beauty of the environment.


Every summer along the California coastline, hundreds of tiny star-like bioluminescent phytoplankton scintillate like a starry sky. Through our discussions and experimentation, we realized that light always permeate and illuminate over an area that is hardly ever defined. It spreads out indefinitely and disappears. But what if we actually set a boundary? What if we were able to control its inherent nature? The shape of the globe acts as a type of magnifying glass which focuses light onto the ground, creating a controlled splash of light. The use of water creates an illusion that plate of light is washed on the floor. We then placed controlled drips inside the globe and when activated, it physically changes the way we perceive light coming out of it, creating a rippling effect, giving motion and fluidity to the straight and stagnant light that we often take for granted. Hence, it creates an effect and ambience which is seldom seen in interior light sources.


As a prior Marine Biology student, I was fascinated by the rhythmic yet random motion of the wave. Our design made the facade create the effect of light trickling down its edges, even when the light source is constant. This was done by the use of thin sheets of paper and thin metal wire to create the frame. We positioned them to allow light pass through some of them while omitting light at other areas to achieve the fluidity of light that you can see in the video.


We used the Arduino light as well as a sound sensor to make it respond to any song adjacent to it, so the user can easily put up a music to set the mood of their surroundings. This is what really gives this installation its character.

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