Watch Cell Phone Signals Paint the Sky in This Crowdsourced Public Art Installation [VIDEO]

We spend a lot of time fiddling with our cell phones, but how often do we use them to make art? In Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks, sculptor Janet Echelman and data artist Aaron Koblin created an eye-catching public art installation that sparkled and changed colors with input from the crowd.

Created for TED‘s 30th anniversary in Vancouver, an intricate net sculpture created by Echelman spanned 745 feet of air on the edge of Vancouver Harbor from March 15-22. Each night visitors used their smartphones and tablets to paint light across the sculpture.

pair using their phones to colorize unnumbered sparks installation

To create the interactive installation, five projectors projection mapped a 10 million-pixel large Google Chrome window onto the net sculpture. Then, through the programming language Go, beams of light were projected onto the net when people interacted with the sculpture on their mobile devices. With the visuals were powered by WebGL, the interactive sculpture made for one powerful feat in crowdsourced, digital art. In the video above you can learn more about how the installation was made.


Passersby interacted with the sculpture by connecting their phones to the project’s Wi-Fi network. Once connected, users were prompted to open Unnumbered Sparks‘ website, where they could drag their finger across the screen to create matching light patterns of varying colors on the sculpture. At the same time, each person’s interaction contributed to ambient sound in the space using each person’s mobile device as a speaker.

“It’s exciting to see so many people engaging with the sculpture,” Koblin told the TED Blog. “I’ve been particularly pleased with the conversations that have started between complete strangers standing beneath. It’s had the effect of bringing people together.”

Learn more about the project and interact with it yourself using WebGL at


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