Illuminations by MITBack to Explore Projects
An open-source interactive lighting installation powered by creative coding.
MIT Illuminations is an ongoing experiment in creative computation at the MIT Welcome Center. The lights dynamically illuminating the center are, like the MIT community, colorful, ever-changing, and alive. They were inspired by a long history of the MIT community deploying creative installations of colorful lights in dormitories, on bridges and buildings, and around campus.
My role in the project, working with Sosolimited, was to build a desktop application that could communicate with the lights over UDP (kiNET) and make programming new shows a breeze from those learning and exploring creative coding. I worked to streamline portions of the user interface, incorporate an audio API that allows of audio input when creating shows, and overhauled the logic under-the-hood in terms of how P5.js operates within the context of the application.
Over time this role expanded to building an open source version of the application that also supported sending lighting data to an Arduino, using a serial port connection. This open source version had to support both Windows and Mac, and have extensive error handling built in, validating user-defined P5.js code as it’s written and providing contextual hints and support.
With that came the need for more extensive settings, allowing the application to be used in many contexts, with and without lights physically connected. Using Electron made deploying and updating the package on end-user machines streamlined, although serious configuration considerations had to be made to support the native serial port bindings.
MIT offered a class for students using the software and it was inspiring to see how students quickly got onboarded and started learning to code. We also built a new website for the project that communicates in real-time over websockets with the on-site installation, showing information about the show that’s currently playing, including a full code preview.
Stop by the MIT Welcome Center in Kendall Square anytime to see the lights in action, or visit illuminations.mit.edu to learn more. To view the code and download the installer to try it yourself, check out the open source library on GitHub.
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