BioPool : BioDesign Studio @ The Tech Museum

While working at Local Projects, developed software to drive the BioPool at the BioDesign Studio exhibit at The Tech Museum. This is the exhibit centerpiece; consisting of 11 projectors beaming into a C-Shaped translucent screen. On the Inside, 4 kiosks with one tangible interface each.

My part consisted on driving content for the 11 projectors; a simulation of user-programmed bacteria. Users can chain together DNA blocks to create bacterias that exhibit custom behaviors. A basic grammar consisting of these pieces was designed:

“When” Pieces
When Red
When Blue
When Green
When Friends
When Strangers
When Always
“How Much” Pieces
A Little
A Lot
Oscillate
Stop
“What” Pieces
Make Red
Make Green
Make Blue
Follow
Flee
Stick
Eat Color
Die
Divide

Pieces can be placed together in a Particular Order

"[1..N][[1..N]When + [1..N][HowMuch + [1..N]What]]"

to create DNA Devices. Up to 4 devices can be attached to each kiosk’s hub, creating complex behaviors.

The goal when designing the bacterias was to achieve a unique but identifiable look for them, mostly driven by its programming. Each “When” Piece in a bacterium DNA leads to a unique sensor attached to that bacterium’s membrane, as those sensors are responsible of triggering the “What” behavior when the sensor condition triggers.

One minimal  example of DNA logic could be:

WHEN("When Strangers") HOW_MUCH("Do A Little") WHAT("Flee")

This would lead to a bacterium that would remain idle when alone, but will immediately run away from any bacteria from a different species that approaches it.

An OpenFrameworks apps was built. Nvidia Mosaic was used to drive 11 x 1920×1200 Projectors across 3 x M6000 Nvidia Quadro GPUs, with a custom projector mapping + edge blending software solution. The total resolution is 13.200 x 1.920 pixels, roughly 25.3  million pixels.

LiquidFun was used to run the physical simulation behind the bacterium structures, especially to be able to replicate the “stick” behaviour.

Custom GLSL shaders allow to draw all the bacteria membranes and sensors in one pass, which turned out to be essential to keep interactive frame rates going.

The C-Shaped projection screen can also be interacted with on the outside; overhead cameras were installed to get a top view of the projection space. Low-res optical flow tracking is used to allow museum visitors to affect the biopool currents with their body movements.

 

Creative Direction: Eric Mika
Project Management: Keeli Shaw
Graphic Design: Rona Binay
Kiosk Development: Gal Sasson
Projection Mapping Add-on: Dalma Földesi
Tangibles: Brooklyn Research