MIT Lights Up the Sky

Multicolored light flooded the night yesterday in Cambridge, MA. The event, called UP: The Umbrella Project, was first performed in Camden, Maine last October. Thanks to a collaboration between MIT and the Connecticut-based dance group Pilobolus, over 300 MIT students, faculty, and staff gathered on Jack Barry Field Sunday night holding umbrellas lit by red, green, and blue LED lights.

Besides an umbrella, each participant also received a controller that could change the lighting. Meanwhile, the crowd’s movements were broadcast on a large inflatable screen.

Here’s Nathan Ingraham writing for The Verge a few days prior:

The event organizers describe it as a “large scale experiment for how social dynamics work, for how individuals can make decisions that can benefit that then effect the larger result” — while each person can control their own umbrella, there will be “leaders” to help guide the group. Aside from the visuals, there’s a research angle that appealed to MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence lab (CSAIL), which is hosting the event. “Our work deals with developing algorithms that allow robots to operate independently within a large decentralized network so that the robots can coordinate and work together to accomplish a common task,” said Dr. Kyle Gilpin, a postdoctoral associate at CSAIL.

Learn more about swarm robotics on Inside NOVA.