Turning The Audience Into A Sea Of Animated Pixels

Pixels for The People (quick snips) from Momo the Monster on Vimeo.

An exciting new demo from Seb Lee-Delisle at last week’s Flash on the Beach conference in Brighton, UK may herald the future standard in audience participation. Called PixelPhones, the project links mobile phones in the audience via the local wifi into a network of pixels forming a large display, creating a canvas for drawing across the audience or, in this case, a Nyan Cat game.

Inspired by the Junkyard Jumbotron project we saw come out of MIT Media Lab earlier this year, Lee-Delisle developed a program that uses a unique system of flashes to locate and sync up the phones in the crowd without the use of a specialized app—running in the phones native browser instead (and thus eliminating the barrier to entry for the user). In his FOTB demo, he synced up more than 220 phones and made a game where Nyan Cat runs from screen to screen, and whoever catches him fastest wins.

The project reminds us of the crowd light painting experience Chris Milk developed for Arcade Fire’s Coachella set this year using LED and infrared transmitter-enhanced beach balls. PixelPhones takes that premise to its natural progression by using the phones already located in each audience member’s pockets as the surface for animation, which, given the fact that most people are already using their phones to snap pictures and video, or worse yet, wave them in the air during slow songs in place of the traditional lighters, seems like a natural extension of typical concert behavior.

Will this be the new standard for audience interaction during concerts and festivals? That remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say you can expect to see some ambitiously creative artists and musicians dreaming up some wild pixel animation ideas in the near future.

Check out the video for Chris Milk’s Arcade Fire “crowd pixel painting” below to get an idea of what it may or may not look like one day: