Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010

When a city hosts the Olypmics, it's always a reason for that city to put their best foot forward. You'll see amazing architecture and artwork that didn't exist a few years earlier. In recent years both architecture and artwork have been including more light and interactive elements. LED lighting is both efficient and easily controlled to produce a range of color and animation effects.

This year we were fortunate to play some part in a number of LED installations at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. In some cases we provided existing macetech products, and in others we developed and produced custom hardware. All the projects were developed and implemented by Tangible Interaction, located in Vancouver, Canada.

Vancouver Public Library - Seed of Truce

Visit Tangible Interaction's Seed of Truce page

This was a completely custom project that had a very short leadtime. Alex Beim from Tangible Interaction contacted us about the project idea, and in less than a week they were in production (while working on other projects for Alex and holding down our day jobs). Alex needed a device that would light up an LED with a specific blinking/fading pattern, and also save enough power to run for about two weeks. He needed at least 5,000 of these devices, so the cost also needed to be minimal. Another concern was light weight.

We selected a PIC10F202 in SOT23-6 packaging. The PIC10 is a member of the Microchip baseline family, runs on low battery voltage, can handle enough I/O current to run an LED, and is programmable in-circuit. In large quantities it's very low priced as far as microcontrollers go.

I roughed out the circuit and gave Alex some required minimum dimensions for the battery holder, and he drew up the PCB outline that would fit his application best. I managed to route the board on a single side due to the low complexity of the circuit. We decided on a 0.6mm thin PCB substrate, white solder mask, and immersion gold contact plating.

seed_of_truce_2 seed_of_truce_1

The "seeds" as Alex calls them are part of an interactive installation at the Vancouver Public Library. Visitors can write their thoughts about achieving peace on a sheet of paper, then fold it into an origami wing. The seed PCB is attached to the wing and the visitor places the completed wing into a tube with high powered fan. The air carries the seed high above, where it spins down like a maple seed and lands gently in a net with seeds launched by other visitors. All the seeds blink and pulse every 15-30 seconds, generating a twinkling effect across the net ceiling.
Here's a video that includes a section documenting the Seed of Truce experience from a visitor perspective (starting at 2 minutes 8 seconds):

You can see the video host Beth gives the PCB a little kiss before sending it up the tube, I'm glad we used lead-free solder!

BC Pavilion - Light Columns

Visit Tangible Interaction's BC Pavilion page

The BC Pavilion hosted another big project put together by Tangible Interaction and other media companies. Large touchscreens allowed visitors to interact with video and software in creative ways. Nearby an ambient lighting exhibit adds ever-changing color and patterns to the area.


The 24 columns are constructed of acrylic and metal tubes running floor to ceiling. At both ends of each tube, a macetech Satellite Module is controlled by a macetech ShiftBar module.

The ShiftBars are controlled by intellijel's Arduino software running on a custom "DMXduino" board they developed. A computer determines the desired lighting algorithm and sends the commands using the DMX protocol.

Here's a video of the touchscreens and RGB columns in operation, shot during Kris Krug's tour of the BC Pavilion:

Here's a page about the various projects at the BC Pavilion Multimedia Gallery, including another good video that explains each project (light columns are about 75% into the video):
Multimedia Gallery Tour

Vancouver House - Origami Chandelier

Visit Tangible Interaction's Origami Chandelier page

The Origami Chandelier is part of a larger exhibit by Tangible Interaction. A very long touchscreen table allows visitors to type in comments and watch them push along the table. They "spill" out the other end and light up the chandelier in a color pattern based on the comment tag that just "fell" off the end of the table. When not busy the chandelier will run some algorithmic color patterns.


Each globe is folded from paper. Inside is a custom surface-mount version of the Satellite Module. Long cables support the globes and run back to control boxes made by Tangible Interaction and intellijel. Inside the control boxes are intellijel's DMXduino controllers, a power supply, and macetech ShiftBar LED control modules.

Here's a video I found from Flickr user "lily-loves-photos":

Olympics Closing Ceremony - Classified

The final Olympics project with Tangible Interaction required more work on our part than all the previous projects together. However I can't provide any details about it right now. Just make sure to watch the Olympics Closing Ceremony on Sunday, and I'll confirm which project we helped build.

To Be Continued....

Submitted by Garrett on Sat, 02/27/2010 - 19:20.

You should get the

You should get the Pu-light-zer Prize.

wow!!! congratulations!

wow!!! congratulations!

Well, I guess NBC didn't

Well, I guess NBC didn't deem us worthy to see your contribution, but we did get to see gigantic inflated beavers and a human hockey puck, so all is not lost. I think.

hahahha. well, we finally

hahahha. well, we finally have a video of the zygotes we helped make. thank you, alex (from tangible interaction), for getting this video out so quickly:

Definitely deserves the gold

Definitely deserves the gold medal for the whole show.