A Light Conversation between Bodies


Programmer and light designer – Matthew Martin
Sensory input designer – Jenna Gavin

Halfway through 2016 I continued my Wearable Beacon project for a light festival in Nelson, New Zealand. The project became more than an aesthetically pleasing shirt by attaching sensors for the public to interact with. We wanted to give the shirt (and by extension the body) a tool for conversing with its surroundings and specifically, other people in a more dynamic form, outside of voice and hand gestures. The sensors were to complete the feedback loop between the shirt (the body) and the people observing the shirt.

By the end of the festival it left an afterthought for how people might communicate using visual cues once digital technology becomes further accustomed to the human body.


When the shirt is not communicating with another being it looks for any sign of life by detecting a close by heat source. It displays this observation on the shirt as a symbolic eye looking for life (see image). This eye is a way to draw people over to see what is happening while also indicating its lively nature. When the eye ‘discovers’ a person it will follow them and changes into an alert mode.

The watching eye follows people as they move around.

If a person wants to engage with the shirt, they can do so by touching the touchpad found on the arm. This initiates a conversation between them and the shirt as their touch is translated onto the shirt. The person can now move their fingers along the touchpad to produce symbolic light patterns and sequences on the shirt. Based on how a person moves around on the shirt will generate different reactions and effects.

For more information on the LED shirt please check out the Wearable Beacon project.

BTS Images