We're climbers. We're engineers obsessed with colorful, shiny things. We're also silly enough to think to ourselves: "What happens when you mix blinky lights with climbing?"
The result is FLASH.IT, an art project for Burning Man 2013.
FLASH.IT is an interactive climbing experience. Each climbing hold doubles as a full-color LED light. A central computer is able to dynamically change any hold's brightness and color based on custom software.
Composed of over 800 sq. ft. of climbing area at various angles and a 200 sq. ft. roofdeck lounge to hang out on after making it to the top, FLASH.IT will be a beacon of colorful light in the desert night.
UPDATE: New Reward: Party time!
We've added a new reward tier -- an invite to our post-burning man party featuring the climbing wall! Anyone who pledges for any reward tier higher than that will get an invite, too.
Why is this awesome?
First (and rather importantly), we're bringing a rather unique climbing wall to Burning Man! But that's just the beginning...
- Look Ma, no tape! We can set climbing routes by simply coloring or flashing the holds. Want to change the route? Done!
- Remember Twister? Imagine playing dynamic games such as "the holds are lava!", and avoid the holds that turn red while still staying on the wall. The possibilities are endless!
- The holds can be used to make dynamic visual art, pulse along with music, or blink to send Morse Code messages to other camps.
- Everyone who makes it to to the top can join in for a roofdeck dance party!
A simple programming interface and an ability to change software on the fly means that it's easy take an idea and turn it into reality in less time than it takes to sing "Blinded by the Light." Our code & hardware is available on github for you to fork and contribute to.
What got this started?
We were brainstorming for this year's Burning Man art project -- a ragtag group of engineers and artists bundled up in an office with a whiteboard and loads of creative energy. Bright ideas flew back and forth, until someone stood up to announce their idea -- a climbing wall with light up holds.
The idea captured our imaginations. Everyone started throwing around concepts for using the wall, exploring implementation details, or discussing the finer points of aesthetics.
So we decided to make it happen.
We're The Arbitrarium -- a burning man camp of friends old a new. We have more than 50 members, focused mostly in the Bay Area and Boston. We spend the hours after work building cool projects, exploring the world around us, and -- of course -- climbing.
Where's the money going?
Everything you give will go towards making this structure an elaborate and engaging interactive experience!
We need to pay for
- transportation to and from the event (large truck rental, gas, etc): $2500
- a place to build and store the pieces while we work on them: $1600
- the hardware, wood, and other materials to build the wall: $2400
- silicone to create lots of molds for the holds: $300
- plastic and electronics for the holds: $400
- Safety equipment (padding and/or bouldering pads): 900
- Kickstarter fees: $900
- We might also buy a single gallon of ice cream to celebrate when we're done: $2.50
- Rewards: Varies based on outcome, but we're just funding them ourselves.
We're not trying to stealth launch a product, or fund a secret startup. All of the money we're asking for will go towards bringing the project to Burning Man and making it an awesome experience for everyone there. Anything above and beyond our goal will go towards adding more holds and creating an even more elaborate roof deck experience. (No matter what, though, we'll share the ice cream. We promise!)
Give us something nice to look at!
We ask that you help us by donating here, and in any way you can be involved. All of our software libraries and hardware are available open source on github, and we'd love to run other people's software on the climbing wall.
Your contribution will help us shine on in the night.
Risks and challenges
There's always the risk that the structure will take longer to build than we expected. Luckily, we've designed our construction process so that we are effectively creating a stable wall at every step in the building process. If we end up being too slow, the wall will still be an entirely functional (albeit smaller) structure.
We've already designed, built, and tested lots of LED-embedded holds, but are just now beginning to produce them in a larger volume. We've already made our boards and bought our components, and now we just need to assemble and cast all the holds. There's no guarantee that the manufacturing process will scale as we expect, but current progress suggests that casting holds in parallel is easy to do with a small number of people.
On the software side, we've already written firmware to control the lights via DMX, and have an API that abstracts away the idea of panels and holds to make it easier to program the wall. This makes it easy for us to quickly iterate and improve the software that gives the wall its functionality.
The greatest challenges, though, are the ones that you don't expect.
We're ready for that. We have a team of engineers that are passionate about the project and about making the experience the best it can be. Our team has put many hundreds of man hours into designing, testing, breaking, and fixing everything about this project -- and we're not going to let anything stop us from bringing it to Black Rock City this year.
- (30 days)