Mind & Matter


Light Renewal

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Dobpler Interactive LED System. Photo by Null Ohm.


One of the highlights from my recent trip to Oslo was a meeting with Null Ohm, a design and research firm located within a refurbished train shed in an industrial area east of the Opera Hall. Industrial designer Stig Skjelvik and engineer Rasmus Hildonen focus on dynamic installations that engage the public realm as well as various environmental phenomena.

Of particular note is their Dobpler Interactive LED System, a light-emitting “mirror” that encourages interaction at varying distances from the surface. The Dobpler system is similar to other pixelated LED screens like Sensacell or Bloomberg ICE in that it illuminates dynamically based on human presence; however, it is strikingly different in the way that it activates the entire space in front of the screen.

Situated within a train underpass in a crime-ridden neighborhood, Null Ohm’s installation demonstrates the power of this technology to engage and influence the public sphere. What was once a dark haven for dangerous activities has now been transformed—and neighborhood inhabitants prone to vandalism now protect the light installation with pride. According to Skjelvik, “The system is interacting with the public, and every movement creates a reaction, leaving an impression of an environment that keeps an eye on the public, with no intrusive video surveillance involved.”

Dobpler thus offers one demonstrable example of an emerging technology’s capacity to affect positive behavioral change, as well as the capability of a digital interface—often considered a “flatland” technology—to influence space.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.