Introduction: Data Lantern

The Data Lanterns are a network of sculptural civic totems that reveal and illuminate layers of urban data. They create poetry out of infrastructure and celebrate the ebb and flow of the city with animated beacons of flowing light. These vertical lanterns are connected to data from neighboring transportation systems and inform pedestrians about the arrival and departure of trains, buses and ferries. The lanterns are physically attached to existing vertical light posts and signaling poles. They transform these utilitarian columns into data-informed light beacons that animate the streets-cape both day and night.

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The project was instigated by the Market Street Prototyping Festival. A prototype of one Data Lantern was on display on the sidewalk in front of 575 Market Street from 8am Thursday, April 9 through Sunday, April 12, 2015.

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Step 1: Mast

We used a 14’ fiberglass mast to stand in for public utility poles. The mast was painted black. Three holes were drilled at the top for attaching the outer rings of the lantern and two holes at the bottom to attach the mast to the base.

Step 2: Inner Rings

The inner rings are laser cut plywood with adjustable braces. The openings in the braces allow heavy duty zip ties to tighten the ring to the mast, locking it in vertically. The openings in the rings allow wiring to run down the mast.

Step 3: Inner Skirt

The inner skirt is made of an opaque white lycra. It is cut to a smaller diameter than the inner rings so they pull down tightly over them, then surged along one edge.

Step 4: Outer Rings

The outer rings are made up of frosted acrylic tube, waterproof LED strips, and 3D printed joints. Four acrylic tubes are bent to 90 degrees using a heat gun rig and CNC milled jigs made of MDF. The 3D printed joints are designed to allow wiring and LEDs to run through the tubes and connect them together.

Step 5: Cable and Turnbuckles

The uppermost outer ring is tied to the top of the mast using aircraft cable, eyelets and turnbuckles.

Step 6: Electronics

The electronics running Data Lantern are a teensy, two 5V power supplies, and six infrared sensors. Most of the electronics are hidden behind the inner skirt while the sensors are housed in an acrylic box sitting below the lantern.

Step 7: Plywood Base

The base is made of layers of plywood CNC milled and screwed together. The pipe holding the mast to the base is bolted from below and drilled with two holes to connect to the mast, also using bolts. The underside of the base was routed out to create a channel for the power cable to run.

Step 8: Outer Skirt

The outer skirt is made of a strong, flexible fabric that was sized to a diameter smaller than the smaller outer ring. The outer rings are zip tied to the fabric to lock them into place. The fabric is then pulled taut using the hooks and turnbuckles at the base.

Step 9: Move to Site

The lantern and the base are two separate parts. The base can be rolled while the lantern is light enough to be hand carried. Attach to base, plug in, and enjoy!