Bigger than ever, Australia’s 23-day festival celebrates light, music, technology and inspiring ideas.
The world’s largest festival of light, music and ideas is underway in Sydney. An estimated 1.7 million visitors came to Vivid Sydney in 2015, and this year – the festival’s eighth – attendance is expected to exceed that. From May 27 to June 18, with the help of technology, large-scale light installations and new music collaborations push genre boundaries and help make the incredible possible.
“Vivid Sydney takes art off the walls and literally puts it on the street,” said the event’s creative director, Ignatius Jones. “You cannot underestimate the complexity of creating touchable, durable outdoor light art. Artists are working intensely, often developing new technologies to bring their vision to life.”
Here’s a list of some of the mind-blowing sights at Vivid this year.
Lighting of the Sails
The Lighting of the Sails is one of the most spectacular traditions at Vivid. This year, the white sails of the Sydney Opera House transformed into an animated canvas for Australian indigenous art. Six artists from different clans created contemporary “Songlines” that depict Australia’s First Nations’ spiritual and cultural history and offered a visual tapestry that weaves through their personal journeys.
A hundred LED-laden drones will launch from Sydney Harbour and fly in various formations to create light patterns, accompanied by music from the Sydney Youth Orchestra. During this public debut, four pilots will use technology in Intel laptops to control 25 UAVs each.
“We chose Sydney because having Drone 100 ride by the Sydney Opera House would be an amazing and beautiful experience,” said Natalie Cheung, Intel’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) product manager.
The launch at Vivid will be the third of its kind. The first set a Guinness World Record near Hamburg, Germany last year. The second, in Palm Springs, California last month, pushed through U.S. regulatory barriers.
The Sydney launch has significant technical and regulatory challenges – it’ll be the first time the drones will fly over water (not typically a friend to electronics), the first time the public can view the event and the first time for this to take place next to such an iconic landmark, the Sydney Opera House.
“With drones quickly emerging as an important computing platform of the future, Drone 100 exemplifies what it means to reinvent experiences with new technology,” said Anil Nanduri, Intel’s general manager of unmanned aviation systems for its Perceptual Computing Group.
“Drone 100 will capture the imagination of all who see it. Through this experience, we hope to inspire the imagination of Vivid Sydney festivalgoers and highlight the future potential of drone technology.”
While UAVs have been used in a range of applications across industries, few have explored its aesthetic value.
“UAVs are usually used for inspection or aerial photography, and surveillance,” said Cheung. “They save a lot of lives inspecting windmills and telephone lines, but we think drones can also be used for something fun and exciting.”
These geometric tree-shaped canopies, which were 3D printed using recycled water bottles, contain speakers linked to the Intel Broadcast Studio inside the Sydney Opera House. They deliver crystal clear sound while grids of internal LEDs interact with the music, creating a dynamic light show during Ta-Ku and other artists’ concerts.
Eyes on the Harbour
Intel’s Eyes on the Harbour turns the crowd into the star of the show. This installation — the first of its kind — uses Intel’s RealSense technology to capture the faces of visitors in 3D and project them onto an 82-foot (25-metre) high water screen every half hour.
Visitors to the Intel booth can get their faces scanned via an Intel RealSense camera. Visitors can chose a wild background or go au natural – and their image gets projected over the harbor. They can even get a souvenir copy emailed to them. People are sharing their faces via social media using the #IntelatVivid hashtag.
“Intel has elevated its offering to the public year-on-year, bringing festivalgoers mesmerizing experiences with art and technology that push the limits of imagination,” said Intel Australia National Marketing Director Anna Torres. “With Eyes on the Harbour, we’re making previously unimagined experiences a reality.”
New to Vivid this year, Be the Light for the Wild at Taronga Zoo features giant illuminated animal sculptures placed in public areas throughout the zoo. The exhibit celebrates the zoo’s 100th year and its commitment to conservation and protection of at-risk animals.
The sculptures, which have moving parts and sound effects, celebrate 10 critically endangered species from Australia and Sumatra, including the Asian elephant, the Sumatran tiger, the platypus, frogs and marine turtles. Around the zoo, other animal-shaped lanterns decorate the night ski, along with thousands of smaller lanterns made by Australian school students.
“We hope these captivating creatures will leave visitors feeling empowered to take positive action for wildlife conservation,” Taronga Zoo Director Cameron Kerr told local reporters. Proceeds from zoo admissions go toward conservation efforts.
Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Celebrating its 200th year, the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney got in on the action at Vivid with the Garden of Light, which features illuminated trees, shimmering shrubs and dazzling flowers.
Entering a tunnel of light, the Cathedral of Light draws physical inspiration from traditional arched windows, typically found in historic churches, to create a 230-foot (70 meter) long tunnel illuminated by tens of thousands of LED light globes.
Designed to be viewed from both inside and out, the Cathedral of Light appears as a single solid shape of bright light, illuminating its surroundings and radiating soft light, creating the perfect photo op for paired-up festivalgoers.
Like entering the gelatinous globe of a jellyfish, walking into the domed Electric Jellyfish installation at the Museum of Sydney is a multi-sensory experience. Innovative technology delivers multi-directional sound and music of astonishing clarity, depth and detail.
Visitors can make their own light and sound show by ‘plucking’, ‘bouncing’ or ‘wobbling’ an electric light ring inside the dome. The action triggers bursts of light and sound experienced both inside and outside the dome. Visitors can also work collaboratively to create their own distinct “species” of jellyfish to flow across the surface of the dome.
Artist Ciaran Frame, age 17, one of the youngest artist at Vivid, created Tree Hugger, which lights up and makes a unique sound and lighting pattern each time someone hugs it.
The audiovisual display changes and adapts in response to the unique characteristics of each hug. A lazy embrace could elicit a slow trigger of lights to the sound of flowing water, whereas a full-body bear hug could trigger an exciting flash of lights and the echo of a racing heartbeat.
The installation brings together different forms of software and hardware, including Intel’s Edison technology. Each pixel on every strip of LED lighting is individually controlled by computers that assign different patterns and pulses. Throughout the life of the installation, each hug will elicit a completely unique fingerprint of light and sound.
I Love You
Giving a whole new meaning to a public display of affection, I Love You encourages visitors to shout their undying love for each other from the rooftops (well, from a podium in the middle of Sydney’s Circular Quay).
Standing in front of a heart-shaped ‘love-o-meter’, couples publically profess their love, screaming “I love you” as loudly as possible. The more love, the more light gets displayed on the giant heart. The goal is to fill the heart with as much love and light as possible, all to the delight of the audience.
Editor’s Note: In this Experience Amazing series, iQ explores how computer technology inside is enabling incredible experiences outside. We look at how computer technology powers new experiences and discoveries in science, the maker movement, fashion, sports and entertainment. To learn more about the tech behind these stories, visit Experience Amazing.