Blume is wireless-networked, democratized LED art. Participants create and own full-color LED displays—consisting primarily of off-the-shelf components—which may be worn or integrated into sculpture or vehicles. Each display mesh-networks and communicates with others, synchronizing color and form. Multiple participants control the mesh simultaneously with mobile devices, mixing patterns in infinite combinations. A marketplace allows artists to distribute innovative new control apps that harness all the input modalities of a modern smartphone.
Blume harnesses the ESP32, an Arduino-compatible microcontroller with Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity at a price point ($3 in bulk) that ensures ubiquity. This postage-stamp device supports well-established libraries for controlling individually-addressable RGB LEDs, which have also matured in design and dropped in price ($0.05 each). It can be powered by rechargeable USB batteries designed for smartphones ($5). Thus, for under $20 in off-the-shelf components a novice can assemble a battery-powered string of addressable LEDs and control it over Bluetooth with their smartphone.
That’s where Blume is now: I have run several workshops in which participants make a few solder connections (with no prior experience), upload Blume firmware via well-documented Arduino software, download the Blume app from iOS/Android app stores, and exclaim in wonder as their creations come to life. The LEDs go on bicycles, hats, wands, and poi. With socket adapters they become smart light bulbs that surpass the market in versatility and value. The platform easily scales to installations with thousands of pixels. Blume’s cross-platform mobile app sports a variety of full-color modes to fit any mood; supported devices can scroll text or project persistence-of-vision imagery.
Blume’s possibilities abound with WiFi connectivity. This is where I want to take the platform: Devices create ad-hoc networks to share colors and patterns, affording serendipitous interactions between users. Smartphones join these networks and control all Blume devices within range simultaneously, painting light across a crowd in real-time. This painting is collaborative, a digital canvas shared amongst users, who don’t even need a Blume—just a smartphone—to participate.
I will also manufacture a small run of Blume controller kits. The kits are plug-and-play devices with power-in and LED-output ports for solder- and software-free integration into projects, similar to ubiquitous EL Wire kits.
Blume’s hardware and software platform will be open-source, allowing widespread adoption. Manufacturers can sell ready-made Blume devices in a variety of form factors and price points. The hardware is not the art. The software that sends pixel data to Blume devices, however, can be packaged and distributed by creative coding artists, for a fee if desired. These modules can incorporate data from accelerometers, cameras, gesture sensors, microphones, internet feeds, etc.
Online demo of the Blume app: https://hobzcalvin.github.io/blume/
Blume app on Android Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.selfobserved.blume
Blume app on iOS App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blume-led/id1288248844
Blume source code on GitHub: https://github.com/hobzcalvin/blume