Delight: Interactive wall installation

What makes you smile? Something funny? An Accomplishment? Tequila? This project allowed us to explore outside the scope of everyday products and dive into what drives people's feelings and emotions.


Design something that will make someone smile. No rules or restrictions.


Our users included everyone that would walk down the Georgia Tech College of Architecture hallway where this finished project would be displayed. Our research group included 12 people - all differing in age, gender, profession, and interests. Instead of a survey or interview, we collected different images of colors, landscapes, types of movement, animals, brightness vs. darkness, etc. We gave the same images to all 12 people and asked them to create a collage that made them smile. The goal was to see if any patterns arose from the order, placement, or frequency of the images in the 12 collages, and they did:

Movement of color   |   Light   |   Calm vs. Chaotic   |   Reaction to an action

I wish we had saved or taken a picture of one of the collages - they were all unique but when put together told a cohesive story. We hypothesized that the mountain and beach landscapes may overpower the cityscapes, but we found that the right combination of colors, movement, and city lights produced a delightful reaction. This lead to us focusing on movement of light and reaction to an action.


I had taken an interactive products course right before this project started and knew I wanted to incorporate that learning somehow. Since the goal of this project was to be displayed as a piece of artwork, we started brainstorming interactive wall installations.

I researched famous wall installations and technologies - and matched those with our research to come up with 5 initial concepts. I put the rough ideas below - I didn't add summaries so you don't think about them too much. Read them like a storyboard and it's okay if you don't understand them - we didn't fully either:

Prototyping and User Testing

All of the quick iterations above had a few things in common: light, movement of color, and feedback to an action. After presenting our concepts to the class we decided to prototype iteration 5. Iteration 5, or "Manipu-lasers" as we called it, allowed viewers to move mirrors on the installation to direct a laser along a path. At the end of the path was a light sensor. If the laser hit the sensor there would be audio and visual feedback. Our hypothesis was that the satisfaction of completing an obstacle would lead to the user smiling because of their accomplishment - action to reaction - all while creating their own unique piece of art.

We failed.   

The lasers we were able to acquire were not strong enough to carry the light and display it as we imagined. Therefore, the effect of light and movement was lost.

Back to the drawing board

We didn't want to lose the light experience - and we realized just because we couldn't direct light how we envisioned didn't mean we couldn't move light. Already familiar with Lego Mindstorm, we chose it as our technology and started laying out how the pieces would fit and work. Incorporated into the design were Lego Mindstorm motors and a motion sensor.

Form, code, and construction

Using lasers from the first prototype and taking scale into consideration of what we were actually going to build we played with light direction from different angles - using an acrylic octagon to obstruct the direction of light.

This helped us define what the wall installation backboard size would look like. As much as we would've liked to build this to real scale, we were successful in building a small scale prototype.

Using Lego Mindstorm software I coded the gears to move as motion was detected by the motion sensor.

We laser cut pieces to make 4 octagonal shapes that were placed on the acrylic to create broader light reactions.

Final design

After laser cutting the backboard out of light weight acrylic to the form we got from the above light research, we mounted it onto a piece of wood that would hold and hide our Lego Mindstorm pieces. On top of the acrylic we placed laser cut octagonal shapes in random spots near the center that were connected to each other by large gears underneath the acrylic that we laser cut as well. The gears were connected to the motor. Lasers were placed on the corners of the acrylic pointing directly towards the octagonal shapes. Last but not least, a motion sensor was placed at the top of the acrylic.

The experience

As viewers came to our wall installation, the shapes began to slowly move, directing the light from the lasers throughout the space. As they came closer the pieces would move faster and faster. As the light bounced off the moving pieces, the movement created a beautiful effect, personalized to each viewer.

The design fueled itself off of personal interaction.

Date: 2013

Team: Sophia Linebaugh

industrial design interactive products georgia tech school project