• LightbugGarden
  • LightBug
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  • Lightbug
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  • Purple Membrane swimmers
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Light Bug

Interactive Light Swing. Orginally commissioned by REACT Play Sandbox.

Light Bug is a digitally enhanced swing that brings responsive light, colour and sound to galleries, festivals, events and future playgrounds.

It invites people of all ages to play, through digital interactivity, in both imaginative and physical ways. Swinging triggers light and sound reactions, and the whole swing is programmed to respond to play, and to suggest different kinds of play activity and experience. Light Bug works with light, rhythm and sound to create an interactive welcoming environment.

Light Bug takes the art of the swing to the next level to show us a glimpse of the future of the creative playground and create a truly immersive and mesmerising experience that will thrill and delight children and adults of all ages.

The playground swing is one of life's simplest pleasures. Feeling your suspended body move through space, rising and falling in a fixed arc that flows first with then against, the pull of gravity, is both thrilling and reassuring. It remains a peerless, timeless invention and an open invitation to play, for children and adults alike.

That's why I created Light Bug. It's a magical, interactive reinvention of the swing that brings additional dimensions of light, colour and sound to the experience. By imbuing the intuitive, classic structure with facets of new digital and interactive technologies, the swing takes on a character and personality that can be developed by the 'swinger'.

Light Bug updates the ancient machinery of the swing with contemporary technology to create new activities that are interesting, interactive and playful. To see Light Bug as technological augmentation of non-technical swings would be mistaken: swings are play with industrial technology, steel chains and cast steel frames, chains and mass-produced, machines parts, pivots and bolts. Light Bug brings this Victorian industrial technology of outdoor play into the digital age; not through touch screens and game controllers, but through interactivity, industrial-era kinaesthesia upgraded with game algorithms, digital code and electronic light.

This work can be shown on its own or expanded to control and trigger light in a surround area. As people swing, they control lights and colour in the area, for example lighting up trees creating a magical environment.
Exhibitions
Playground, Millennium Gallery Children’s Media Conference, 2018.
REACT Rooms Festival, Bristol, 2015.
Play Sandbox launch, Pervasive Media Studio, 2015.
SUPPORT
This ambition project brings together Tine Bech’s interactive art and design experience, Seth Giddings’ research into digital and postdigital play, and Danish play-technology from PlayAlive.

Photos by Max McClure, Paul Blakemore, Seth Giddings and Tine Bech.

The Light Bug project was funded by REACT Play Sandbox - a programme that support collaborations to develop new products or services for children. It was been designed to bring together companies, young people and academic researchers to develop prototypes that mobilise play in new transformative ways.

Play Sandbox was produced by iShed, part of Watershed on behalf of REACT.

REACT was a collaboration between the University of the West of England, Watershed, and the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter. It was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to initiate collaborations between arts and humanities researchers and creative companies.