Future Cities Lab (FCL) strives to understand how architecture can express the flows of data around us, and how these streams of information can benefit our daily lives. This is how we conceived Bitstream, an interactive artwork that will be featured in the lobby of the new Bitly headquarters in New York City. It was designed and fabricated in less than three months in San Francisco, CA. The piece pulls in live data from Bitly’s API and over the course of the day animates the ever-shifting pattern of global user links and clicks, allowing lobby viewers a glimpse into a day in the life of a Bitly link. It is a live, interactive, data-visualizing sculpture.
The design of Bitstream’s undulating surface is based on our analysis of global internet usage mapped across time and place. The peaks and valleys indicate potential Bitly users at different times of the day and their locations. The subtly billowy surface is constructed of folded, laser cut, translucent paper diffusers, each one unique and individually labeled. Each diffuser has it’s own printed circuit board mounted with individually controllable LEDs, allowing complete light control over the entire surface. Each of the 20 panels is a self-contained display system and can scale easily to accommodate any space.
The power of this data panel system is it’s scalability: it could as easily accommodate a conference room or a building facade. It has a built-in manual control panel for adjusting color, brightness, and multiple modes of use, such as playing back low-res video clips. The entire piece can easily be reprogrammed for any future potential use, such as attaching a webcam or other sensors to adapt it for live performance and interactivity. The system is designed to make it easy to swap out any single LED board, and the panels are easy to remove for maintenance.
We are excited to travel to New York this week for the installation, and will update with more pics of the final piece as soon as we can!