The Red Field


Project Title: The Red Field
Project By Arshia Sobhan, Jessie Zheng, Nilam Sari, Priya Bandodkar

Project Description

Our project is an experimentation on light sequences. The piece is meant to be hung on a wall and gets activated when the viewer walks pass by it. The light sequences change based on the interaction the viewer has with the piece. We used mirror board and reflective clear acrylic sheet to create an infinite reflections for more an immersive illumination.

Ideation Process

The idea of the project has gone through series of evolution. At the start of this project, we jotted down the ideas that could potentially be built upon and/or combined. We tried to expand the interaction experience of the users as much as possible with our ideas even with the limited number and categories of tools available to us.  


Eventually, we came to an agreement to build something simpler with the limited timeframe to complete the project, yet experimental and aesthetically pleasing so we could still practice our design skills as well as familiarize ourselves with physical electronic basics and the Arduino programming language. Inspired by the LED light cube video on YouTube, we brainstormed ideas to make a variation of it to combine incorporate users’ physical interactions with the lights/ sensors as an essential part of this project. To make sure the project is mostly finished before the day of presentation, we made a schedule to keep us on track since we only have about 5 days to make the project.

Project Schedule


Based on the distance sensor data input and LED lights output information, we have explored the possible combinations of how they relate to each other. Initially, we hoped to use 3 distance sensors so that each distance controls a separate attribute of LED lights, for example brightness, blink rates and blink patterns. 

The idea behind our project was to collaboratively control the display of the light in the box in the same way DJs mix their music. Based on this idea, we created a light panel and a controller as the main part of the piece.

Work in progress

Day One (Monday, 7 Oct)

We have established 4 modes, which are idle mode, crazy mode, meditating mode and individual mode. To generate more interesting behavior patterns for the LEDs, we soldered 4 groups (red, blue, purple and green) of LEDs together, leaving one group (8 LEDS marked in yellow) in the center unsoldered in an attempt to have individuality in the midst of unity for LED patterns. To further increase the aesthetic appeal, we decided to use an infinity mirror to put behind the LED lights so that the lighting effects will be enhanced and amplified even more as if there are infinite blinking and fading LEDs.


Day Two (Tuesday, 8 Oct)

We divided the coding into 4 different parts, with Arsh, Priya and Nilam each designing one of the modes of different lighting patterns of the four groups of LEDs that are soldered together, while Jessie designing a separate set of behaviors for the unsoldered group of LEDs. 

We regrouped a few times to make adaptations to our code for the maximum amount of clarity when it comes to users’ interactions with the sensor. Using the same thresholds becomes important when it comes to working individually on our own code and combining it altogether in the end. We tested different sensor values to come to the final threshold numbers.

Day Three (Wednesday, 9 Oct)

In order to hide the distracting wires on the back of LED lights, we designed and laser cut a box to encase the LED light panel as well as the wires at the back. We also designed a pyramid to place 3 sensors at the center of the each side for users to interact with to control the lighting behaviors and patterns. However, we realized by having 3 sensors will significantly affect the speed of execution of the code. Eventually, we decided to use only 1 sensor for this project and utilize different physical ranges to trigger different behaviors for the LED lights.



With our code close to finish, we started soldering the 4 groups of lights together so we can have the code tested on the LED light panel to see if the light patterns work well together since they have been done by separate people. We soldered the lights in parallel rather than in series in case that one of the lights burns out, it won’t affect the others LED lights that have been soldered onto the same group.


To achieve the effect of the infinity mirror, we got reflective acrylics from the plastic shop at the main building. We got this mirror-like acrylic for the base layer of the LEDs, and used clear transparent acrylic and coated it with a reflective layer as the cover for the box. We experienced some struggles while trying to coat the cover acrylic, as air bubbles got between the acrylic and the coating. However, it still looks good with all the physical elements combined.


Day Four (Thursday, 10 Oct)

On the final day before the presentation, we finalized the code together in case if they don’t work together. Problems occurred as we tried to do so. Arsh and Priya’s code couldn’t work together for some reason which we couldn’t figure out. Having consulted Nick, we learned that Boolean State is a digital function and can’t work the same time with analogWrite(), as one pin can either be assigned digitalWrite() or analogWrite(), but not both at the same time. We adjusted our code accordingly to solve this issue in the end.

With Arsh, Priya and Nilam finished with their code, Jessie had trouble achieving the effects of making 8 unsoldered individual LEDs blinking one after another, with setting different blink rates in an LED array. However, the 4 groups of LEDs already blink and fade in a coherent and unified manner with Arsh, Priya and Nilam’s code. We decided to let Jessie continue to work on her code. If she worked it out before the presentation, we would have more interesting light patterns. If she couldn’t, the LED panel worked well as the way it was and she could work on it after the presentation as well.

Day Five (Friday, 11 Oct)

Jessie eventually made the 8 individual LEDs behave in the way she desired them to. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to assemble the lights together before the presentation, so we presented it as the way it was. During the presentation, Nick offered some insight on the psychology of human behaviors and possible interactions with our LED panel. He encouraged us to think more about how we could use this to our advantage by discarding the sensor pyramid completely, and hide the distance sensor somewhere as a part of the main body of our LED panel for example. Users would get closer to it in order to find out what triggers the lighting behaviors and have a more intimate and physical experience with the LED panel.

Project Adaptation After Presentation 

After the presentation, we received an important feedback that by having a separate controller, the physical distance between the piece and the controller might impede the natural interactions, because the controller would limit the physical spaces participants could utilize to play and experiment with, which basically only allows the users to wave their hands around it like a zombie. During break, we made changes on the display and concept of our project.

The new piece is meant to be hung on a wall and only gets activated when the viewer walks pass by it. In the new version of our project, the idle state of the wall piece becomes completely dark. It won’t have any sort of reaction until someone walks pass by it and activate the piece. Once the piece is activated and received attention from the viewer, the light sequences on the wall piece will change depending on different ways of interactions.

This new concept plays on the concept of proxemics, and try to minimize space or even eliminate it between viewers and the collaborative aspect. We thought that with this new concept, more focus would be placed on human relationships with the space around them.

Video of interaction

Link to Code





Technical Challenges

Due to our very limited experience with Arduino and coding, we faced several technical challenges on our way.

The first issue occurred when we were trying to control the brightness and the blink rate of LEDs at the same time. We understood that we can’t use analogWrite and digitalWrite to the same LED set simultaneously. This Issue was resolved by adding a little more code and changing all digitalWrite functions to analogWrite.

The second issue happened when we connected the LED board to the Arduino. At the test stage, the data coming from the distance sensor was reasonably smooth when there were only 4 LEDs, each connected to an output pin. After connecting the LED board, the distance data was wildly fluctuating and making it impossible to interact with it. This fluctuation was a result of the electrical noise caused by many wires connected to the board.


As suggested by MaxBotix, we added two components to filter the noise to our board: a 100ohm resistor and a 100µF capacitor.


Adding these components stabilized the distance data significantly and resolved the issue.

Finally, to amplify the brightness of LEDs, we used a transistor for each LED group. Otherwise, all the LEDs were too dim to demonstrate the fade effect relevant to distance changes.

After modifying the idea with regard to presentation feedback, the effect displayed for someone passing the box was another challenge, considering that it was supposed to happen only once after distance changes detected by the sensor. Using a variable to store the time of sudden change and several conditions over duration of fade-in/fade-out effect, the issue was resolved. However, there seems to be some kind of conflict among them, causing minor flickers during the effect.

Several attempts to use a sine function failed trying to create a degree related to time past after the sudden change and to limit it between 0 and PI, due to unnatural (and uncontrolled) behaviour of the output.

Project Context

The work by Harry Le, an 8x8x8 LED Arduino cube project, and The DIY Crab, a DIY infinity mirror coffee table on gave us the inspiration for this project.

Philippe Hamon said, within the context of architecture, “Every building, once completed, concretizes a sort of social and natural proxemics”. This applies to the existence of most objects including artworks. Interactive artwork, in particular, adds a new element to the relationship between the artwork and the viewers. Our work, “Title of our work”, is meant to grab the attention of passers-by to pay more attention to the objects around them.

People are more likely to interact with objects that react to them. “Title of our work” idle mode mimics a still mirror until the sensor picks up on a motion. Once the sensor picks up that there is a person passing by (using the change in distance), the wall piece would play a short light sequence. It is a random blinking effect of lights that has a pleasant fall off, subtly creating a notion of “I just saw you pass by”. On the counterpart, the quick blinking light sequence draws the attention of the passer-by, thus creating a sense of curiosity.

Once the piece grabs one viewer’s attention, it will draw other people’s attention as well. One of our goals is to get people to interact with the piece collaboratively, creating a sensual co-existence. People adjust their distances between each other based on their social activities, but sometimes the distances are also used to raise defense mechanisms when others intrude within their spaces (Hall, 1969). The size of the piece requires participants to share a relatively small space, encouraging them to get close into each other’s personal spaces. We encourage people to get close to each other while interacting with our work. However, we are also interested to see how participants who don’t know each other well would behave in close proximity with each other when they are all drawn to the same object.

Through physical interactions with the piece, participants will gain aesthetic pleasure and gratification through the lighting patterns their actions trigger. After the adaption on the piece, we encased the sensor together with the LED panel so it wouldn’t be easily seen. The idea behind it is for participants to freely experiment with the piece to try to figure out the mechanism behind it driven by their curiosity. As Costello and Edmonds (2007) have put it in their study of play and interactive art, “stimulating “playful audience behavior might be a way of achieving a deep level of audience engagement.” We build on this concept in our interactive piece to obtain engagement and entertainment. Participants will eventually adapt to the ways that LEDs behave, and gain a sense of gratification by obtaining the knowledge of how it works. This kind of rewarding system behind the piece will keep them invested in the experience throughout the interactions. Furthermore, with this acquired knowledge, participants can go on to use this piece for more advanced performances such as making the LEDs react in a cohesive way with the sounds of music and etc.


Costello, B. and Edmonds, E. “A study in play, pleasure and interaction design”. ACM New York, 2007.

Le, Harry. “8x8x8 LED CUBE WITH ARDUINO UNO”. Youtube. accessed on October 18th, 2019.

The DIY Crab. “DIY Infinity Mirror Coffee Table”. Youtube. Accessed on October 18th, 2019.

Hamon, Philippe, “Expositions : Literature and Architecture in Nineteenth-Century France”, trans. Katia Sainson-Frank and Lisa Maguire (Berkeley: U of California P, 19).

Hall, E.T. “The hidden dimension”. Anchor Books New York, 1969

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