Research Project # 7 – Connecting Light

Project by: Jazmine Yerbury, Margarita Castro, Marcus Gordon & Hammadullah Syed.

Connecting light was an outdoor art installation that combined LED lights and wireless communications technology.  Installed in Northern England at a place called Hadrian’s wall park. As you can see in the image below, Hadrian’s wall stretches for a length of 73 miles (or 117 kilometers).  It was built in 122 AD during the rule of emperor Hadrian of the Roman Empire.


A glimpse into the installation, shows the scale of this work spanning the large territory of the wall.  Lights in the balloons blink in response to audiences sending/receiving of messages via the balloons and a mobile app on the user’s phone.

 Who was behind this project?

The development team behind this amazing project was a coalition between members of  YesYesNo and spearheaded by Zach Lieberman,a known artist, researcher and hacker dedicated to exploring new modes of expression & play.

YesYesNo LLC is a new interactive collective that specializes in the creation of engaging, magical installations that combine creativity, artistic vision and cutting edge R&D.

For this project, 400 Digi Programmable Xbees and 20 ConnectPort X4 gateways were requiered. All this for 400 balloons lined up against 73 miles of Hadrian’s Wall.


Zach Lieberman explains that each balloon is programmable, allowing the intensity of colours to be controlled.  Based on our research it seems that control was a split between user control, automatic climate adjustments that the XBee makes in response to weather conditions.

The equipment for each balloon was well organized:



This transmedia map shows how the system takes input of text messages, through the X4 gateways and transmits to the XBee modules controlling the lights.



Zach Lieberman is the cofounder of Open frameworks, an open source C++ toolkit designed to assist the creative process by providing a simple and intuitive framework for experimentation. OpenFrameworks is designed to work with several commonly used libraries such as: Free Type (fonts), Free Image (image saving and loading) & OpenCV. It is distributed under the MIT License. This gives everyone the freedoms to use openFrameworks in any context: commercial or non-commercial.

His aim is to use technology in a playful way to break down the fragile boundary between the visible and invisible – augmenting the body’s ability to communicate.

Through his work, he looks for the open mouth phenomenon as to be in awe. When something is so great the your conscious mind has no power over your physical body and forces the jaw to drop. Also perceived as a gateway to someone’s heart.

 Connected Colour – RGB Morse code transmitter and decoder

First Prototype “Hello”:

For out first Prototype for this research project, the first test was very simple, text was typed into the serial monitor gets output as a blinking, beeping morse code.

Second Prototype “Morse Code (sound decoder)”:

Circuit and code which allows user to input text. The text is output as morse encoded beeps, then the signal is read by an electret mic, then decoded back into english on another device.

Final prototype:

For the final prototype, there was created a circuit of 2 different sets of RGB leds and styrofoam to enhance light through a code that allowed text to be encoded into morse code signal light blinks, then read by a photocell, and decoded back into english on another device.

Sets of RGB leds and styrofoam lamps:


  1. The LED circuit  with 2 RGB LEDs was connected to a buzzer and connected to a second 2 RGB LEDs circuit.
  2. Both circuits were connected to an Arduino’s PWM digital pins.
  3. The 2 lamp prototypes  enhanced the lights from the RGB LEDs circuits.
  4. Through the morse encoder Arduino code, words  input  through serial port.
  5.  Each letter is generated in morse code on RGB light circuit #1 and buzzer.
  6. RGB light circuit #2 replicates every letter from RGB light circuit #1 in morse code.