The first week’s assignment for Light and Interactivity was to experiment with different types of LED fades. The technical output was “create an uninterruptible fade. With these constraints I found an adequate box in the junk shelf, glued on some googley-eyes, and created ‘LightBot, the anxious robot’.

Lightbot has a pleasant slow blue breathing when it’s asleep, a healthy green heartbeat when he’s awake, and a panicked ‘HELP ME’ fade when it’s upset. Lightbot gets upset when it’s turned upside down…

I spent a bit of time experimenting with different fades on an Arduino Uno. I settled on a fast sinewave for ‘happy’, a slow sinewave for ‘asleep’ and two quick pulses followed by a pause for ‘panicked’.

At the end of the code for the two pulses, ‘state’ is multiplied by ‘intensity’, creating the two on, two off pattern.

Once I’d found the right fades I used the Uno as a bootloader to load the sketch onto a ATTiny85 so I could fit all the electricals inside the body of LightBot. I followed this guide to set up the tiny.

ATTiny85 with an accelerometer on pin A2, and 3 distinct LEDs on pins 0 – 2

Light Observation Week 1

Bedford-Nostrand Subway Station

This scene happened the day after the first class. With the idea of ‘observations’ fresh in my mind, one of the strangest lighting situations in my recent memory presented itself on a dazzlingly silver platter.

The light at the end of this tunnel was overwhelmingly bright. This picture does no amount of justice to it: as I walked into the station I had to shield my eyes as if staring directly into the sun. The word ‘dazzling’ comes to mind. The rest of the room seemed dark in comparison. There was also a strange low rumbling that came with the light. The scene was eerie and otherworldly; such a bright light inside felt misplaced. I was very curious as to what it was, this was obviously no ordinary subway train headlamp.

The light was so bright I could not tell anything about the source: how many lamps there were, what shape they were, even how far away they were. The light was signalling to my brain a large white-hot spot of “UNKNOWN: KEEP AWAY”. I can even begin to empathise with those alien abductionists, if this is the sort of light that they encounter to trigger their ‘visions’.

Something that really fascinates me is as I approached, the light immediately got noticeably dimmer. I reckon this must mean the light source is very directional: even the marginal increase in angle of incidence offered by walking a few meters along the subway platform was enough to make the light bearable to look at.

When far away from the source (SRC), but at a shallower angle from it (1), the light seems brighter than when I am closer, but at steeper an angle (2)

As I approached – a long approach as the source was all the way at the end of the platform – I discovered it was a train, but not the usual one. Google helped me learn it’s the MTA’s track inspector, helping keep the trains running safe and behind schedule.

Source: MTA

I haven’t focussed much on the rest of the light in the image because, well, the overwhelmingly bright light took all of my attention at the time. As I said, the rest of the room seemed dark in comparison. Even the long trails of tube lights from above seemed dim.