MIT Artists Use Color Changing LEDs to Illuminate Interactive Magnetic Pixels

If there are two things I’m a sucker for, they’d have to be interactive art and LED lights. So of course you can imagine my delight when I discovered “Six-Forty by Four-Eighty,” an art piece that combines both of these pleasures in one versatile, stunning and inspirational display. Designed by Jamie Zigelbaum and Brazilian Marcelo Coelho at MIT Labs in Cambidge, MA, Six-Forty by Four-Eighty is an LED lighting installation that illuminates the physicality of pixels, which are the essential building blocks of all things digital.

The piece is composed of 220 magnetic blocks placed on a magnetic wall in a dark room. Each block contains an RGB LED, which changes color when the blocks are touched, moved or modified by viewers. In the beginning of the day, the blocks are arranged in a tightly packed rectangular formation; at the end of the day, you’ll find them spread out in a completely unique formation created by participants. One extra-special feature of Six-Forty by Four-Eighty is that the blocks contain sensors that can send electromagnetic signals through the human body. So, if you touch one block with your right hand, and another with your left, you’ll see them both change into the same color right before your eyes! In fact, the artists have been able to achieve the same affect with a string of up to 8 people holding hands.

Here’s what Zigelbaum had to say about the significance of this piece: ““The pixel is a single point of light, a bit of pure information. They are strangers that inhabit our living spaces, but remain out of reach from our physical bodies. This installation is an attempt to change that, making people deal with computational data as if it were solid material.”

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