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A giant interactive street light shines on London Design Festival

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Industrial designer Samuel Wilkinson has created an intriguing 4.5 metre tall street light made of 1,500 glass crystal lenses as part of the upcoming London Design Festival. The opulently named “Ommatidium” (the name apparently comes from the individual units that make up the compound eyes of a group of insects) is an interactive street light that will also act as a digital, site-specific sculpture at London’s Old Street throughout the Festival, which runs this year between the 18th and the 27th of September. The imposing structure has been developed with Lotto Lab, a company that lists itself as the world’s first “Public perception research space.”

Industrial designer Samuel Wilkinson has created an intriguing 4.5 metre tall street light made of 1,500 glass crystal lenses

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Wilkinson worked closely with Lotto Lab director and Ripple CEO Beau Lotto on the project. The structure will be controlled via the Traces app from Ripple. The app is designed as an augmented messaging app, which allows information to be tagged to a particular site and retrieved using a smartphone. Lotto has said of the app that: “Rather than sending a message to a person, Traces allows you to send it to a location, where it is left as a virtual water ‘droplet’ – catch the droplet and discover the message.” The Ommatidium will act as a repository for information on Traces, with people using it to send and receive information about nearby creative people and companies, TfL updates on building work and maps of the local area. A digital umbrella if you will! They will also be able to download historic photography and videos of the area, free music and vouchers for local bars and clubs.

The Ommatidium is an interactive street light that will also act as a digital, site-specific sculpture at London’s Old Street

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To create the Ommatidium, Wilkinson said he drew inspiration from the fragmented nature of the digital world, with its kaleidoscope of different perspectives. He describes it as a “Large horizontal window that refracts the sky during the day and is illuminated at night,” and given the photos, it’s easy to see what he means, though there’s no telling just how impressive it will look in the flesh. The structure houses a multifaceted lens canopy that manages to transform sunlight into 5,000 rainbows on the pavement during the day, and by night the Ommatidium will be lit with a series of LEDs. The overhanging angled rim will frame the user’s view and create a contrast between the matte black patterned steelwork and the faceted hand-cut solid-crystal prisms, which are asymmetrical on both top and bottom, so will create a kaleidoscopic view of the sky, and when the sun shines, thousands of rainbows will burst on to the floor below.

The structure houses a multifaceted lens canopy that manages to transform sunlight into 5,000 rainbows on the pavement

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Wilkinson said of his creation: “This installation was never about designing a loud provocative object – it was more to create something that fitted with the vernacular of street furniture. The challenge was to create the right experience, an interesting intervention, something with multiple layers that could react to the environment. A place where people would be able to appreciate the physical experience at the same time as virtually checking out what’s going on locally.” And if you’re planning on checking out this year’s London Design Festival (and why wouldn’t you be?) then feel free to stop by Old Street this September. Just remember to bring your smartphone with you!

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