John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
This body heat-sensing spotlight is great if you're egotistical, terrible if you have a hangover.
There are some folks who love being in the spotlight. For them, the "Walk the Light" art installation in the London Tube was marvelous: They could stroll up and down in the congratulatory beam while their heads swelled to the size of zeppelins.
People suffering from a Priority 1 Hangover were probably less enthusiastic about getting dazzled by this intelligent, body-tracking light. Same goes for the intensely shy and sneaky felons trying to beat an escape from the Big House.
Like it or hate it, "Walk the Light" was at least worthy of attention. And attention it demanded, given that it had the ability to scoot along a ceiling track to hunt down commuters with a thermal camera, kind of like a less kill-happy sister to the Predator alien. The confounding spotlight recently ended its run inside the tunnel entrance to the Victoria and Albert Museum, but there's still good footage documenting its photonic probings of the humanoids (see below).
Lighting/architectural firm Cinimod Studio erected the apparatus for this year's London Design Festival. The creators explain how it works:
This experimental interactive lighting design project creates a band of white light that physically follows the visitor, forming a bright line of light tracking their journey. As one person passes, the white light jumps to the next arrival. Either side of the white band, washes of strong colour are pushed and pulled along the tunnel creating an ambient lighting effect that represents the overall ebb and flow of the day’s visitors. Throughout the day these colours shift in the hue and saturation as they respond to the prevailing direction of movement of the crowds.
If you think that's weird, it's pretty much in line with other Cinimod inventions, like this "mood conductor" for the London Eye and a gizmo to turn people into ice angels. The temptation to add a soundtrack of applause to the roving light must've been near unbearable:
(Photos courtesy of Cinimod Studio. H/t to Co.Design.)