Maker Movement Mania

Silly Cone Chips and Cutting-Edge Tech Bring Vivid Sydney Festival to Life

Ken Kaplan Executive Editor, iQ by Intel

After last year’s Vivid Sydney was named Australia’s Event of the Year, there was only one thing to do: turn to technology and crank up the dazzle dial.

This year, the 18-day light, music and ideas festival again attracted artists and creative thinkers from around the world. However, this year, computing technology brought a new twist.

From May 23 to June 9, the festival is something to behold from afar, but is even better up close, in the thick of the action.

“This year’s Vivid Sydney boasts the largest program of light, music and ideas in the festival’s six-year history,” said Destination NSW Chief Executive Officer Sandra Chipchase.

“The extended footprint in five new precincts, including Carriageworks, The University of Sydney, The Star and finally Harbour Lights, create an unbroken trail of light from Circular Quay to North Sydney.”

Boats that transform Sydney harbor into a sea of color, a real-time, interactive light sculpture on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a giant, interactive robot controlled with a tablet are some of the technological wizardry at this year’s Vivid Sydney.

The magic is brought to life by Intel technology embedded throughout the festival, according to Kate Burleigh, New Zealand managing director at Intel Australia, which for the past four years has been a Vivid Partner.

“Intel is truly inside Vivid in 2014, powering many of the most popular, creative and beautiful installations,” she said. “Whether it’s digitally ‘painting’ the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge using a custom-built, Intel-powered tablet, or our tiniest processors helping control the beautiful Harbour Lights installation, our technology is working to make it delightful.”

Every year Vivid Sydney delivers a world first. This year, it’s all about vessels large and small decorated with brilliant LED lights that change color while they float into different parts of the harbor. Harbour Lights was made possible by a collaboration between Intel and Sydney-based 32 Hundred Lighting.

The changing colors of the boats are controlled by preprogrammed, Intel-powered satellite navigation GPS kits. The technology is based on the Intel Galileo development board, which is a tiny circuit board that makes it easier for artists, designers and DIY enthusiasts to create interactive environments.

Iain Reed, managing director of 32 Hundred Lighting, reels off with the glee the amount of tech that goes into the Harbour Lights.

“We have 2,000 one-meter LED tubes, 140 high-output LED cans, 1.1 kilometer of fiber optic cabling, 8.6 kilometers of Cat 6 cabling, 3.5 kilometers of power cabling and over 150,000 control channels,” he said.

Reed’s colleague, System Developer Rob Douglas, is equally enthusiastic about using Intel’s Galileo board, the first x86 to fit into the Arduino ecosystem. He knows well how the boats change colors.

“We’ve built a custom shield that provides us with GPS information accurate within 5 meters that can interface through the standard Arduino input/output system,” he said.

Then he added a little humor.

“In terms of testing, I had a few sort of odd nights where I was driving around my suburb in my car lit up with about 200 LEDs making quite a spectacle of myself,” he said.

People got their hands on the very same technology that makes Harbour Lights possible during Galileo development board workshops, which was part of Vivid Ideas .

A larger-than-life interactive Intel robot roamed the Vivid Sydney precincts throughout the festival. Festival goers controlled its colors and movements via an Intel-powered Acer A1-830 tablet.

Following the success of last year, Intel Australia and Sydney-based lightwork innovators 32 Hundred Lighting once again team up to give visitors the chance to “paint” the western face of the Sydney Harbour Bridge using an Intel-powered touch screen, located on the Luna Park boardwalk.

Another hands-on experience was Sphera, a large, ethereal globe that emits incandescent sparks of light.

With the touch of your fingers, this eerily beautiful world produces flurries of snow, inviting you to reflect on the delicate splendor of nature.

Those with a sweet tooth were in for a unique treat that also came with a technological twist.

Gelato Messina created a special, limited-edition gelato flavour for this year’s festival. Dubbed ‘Silly Cone Chips,’ this colorful and delicious creation pays homage to the small but powerful silicon-based microprocessor technology at the heart of so many of Vivid’s colorful installations.

“We’re proud of our tribute to Intel, the partner of Vivid, with our ‘Silly Cone Chips’ flavor,” said Declan Lee, co-owner of Gelato Messina.

“On the outside you’ll find popping candy, crushed chocolate chip cookies and a mango/coconut swirl, but just like computers, it’s on the inside that the real excitement happens,” said Lee. “An inverted cone filled with banana caramel will leave even the sweetest sweet tooth satisfied.”

Gelato Messina are innovators in their own right, according to Danielle Watts, national marketing manager for Intel Australia.

“The festival celebrates creativity and collaboration between industries and ‘Silly Cone Chips’ is the perfect example of a different sort of creative collaboration,” she said.

After this year’s spectacular festival, one can only wonder how creative collaborations will be brought to life at next year’s Vivid Sydney.

Stephanie Ryan contributed to this story.

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