A colorful rainbow shower and digital surprise awaits visitors at London’s historic East End. Industrial designer Samuel Wilkinson and neuroscientist Beau Lotto recently installed Ommatidium, a dazzling installation at Hoxton that’s made with a canopy of 1,500 glass crystal lenses and is hooked up to an interactive digital network. Inspired by and named after the photoreceptor units that make up an insect’s compound eyes, the 4.5-meter-tall sculpture casts 5,000 ever-changing refracted rainbows onto passersby.
The Ommatidium was the culmination of Wilkinson and Lotto’s desire to “create something that inspires but [is] also useful to the community, and to celebrate the digital innovation the area is famous for.” Located on 243 Old Street and initially unveiled for the 2015 London Design Festival, this site-specific sculpture was constructed from a matte black steel beam attached to a circular 3.2-meter-wide steel mesh filled with hand-cut glass prisms. The structure beams down colorful rainbows during the day and lights up with LEDs at night.
But the multipurpose Ommatidium is much more than just a beautiful parasol of refracted light. The digital street lamp has WIFI built in and it connects with the Traces information-retrieval app developed by Lotto’s San Francisco company Ripple Inc. Passersby use their mobile device to access the app, which alerts them to location-specific information such as maps, tourism tips, historic photos, free music, and more. People are encouraged to leave behind messages in the app as well.
“By bringing together neuroscience and design, the Ommatidium and Traces facilitate the inherent creative nature of the brain by enabling people living, visiting and working in one of the most creative areas on the planet to gift their way of being and seeing to others – to augment our world with digital, rather than attempting to replace it,” said Ripple CEO Beau Lotto. The Ommatidium will remain in place until September 2016.
Images via Samuel Wilkinson