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Mood art at the Microsoft Research Center

April 1st, 2020 / By: / Swatches

An art installation that smiles back

Programmed to react to human expression, Ada is driven by artificial intelligence in real time, offering multiple opportunities for participants to interact with the sculpture, which changes color and light depending on the mood in the room. Photos: Jake Knapp.

Walk into the atrium of Building 99, a Microsoft Research center in Redmond, Wash., and you can’t miss the two-story architectural installation. Depending on your mood, it greets you with different levels of color and light.

The structure is named Ada in honor of Ada Lovelace, a gifted 19th century mathematician who is credited with being one of the first computer programmers. Ada is the brainchild of architectural designer Jenny Sabin,who created and built the installation while she was artist in residence at Microsoft Research.

The sculpture, which weighs 1,800 pounds, is composed of 1,274 fiberglass
rods and 895 3D-printed nodes. A digitally knit skin adds a soft sense of weightlessness to the spherical design. 

Ada’s interior is comprised of a network of hundreds of digitally knitted cones and cells featuring photoluminescent fibers that absorb, collect and emit light. It also features three scales of responsive and gradated lighting including a network of addressable LEDs, a custom central fiber-optic cone, and five external parabolic aluminized reflector (PAR) lights that respond in real time to continuous streams of data. 

Human interaction drives Ada. A series of cameras located throughout the building read people’s facial expressions, voice tones and sound, and feed the data back. The data is processed by artificial intelligence algorithms and correlated with sentiment. Then, specific sentiments are correlated with colors, spatial zones within the project, and responsive materials. For further details, visit www.jennysabin.com.