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MIT Students To Colorize Cambridge Sky In LED Umbrella Art Show

LED-lit umbrellas held by participants in the live art performance "UP" create a colorful design in Camden, Maine. (Courtesy)

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This weekend, the Cambridge night sky will be lit from below.

On May 19, MIT is hosting the second annual performance of “UP: The Umbrella Project” — an artistic and scientific collaboration between MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Labs (CSAIL) and the internationally acclaimed modern dance company Pilobolus.

UP is an interactive performance that provides participants with umbrellas equipped with adjustable red, green, and blue LED lights. Each participant is encouraged to change the color of his or her umbrella, thereby changing the appearance of the larger pattern which is projected in real time on a screen. The performance evolves according to the actions and reactions of its participants.

“We see it as a very large-scale experiment for how social dynamics work,” CSAIL postdoctoral associate Kyle Gilpin said in a video describing the project. “So how individuals can make decisions that then affect the larger result that’s achieved by the group.”

Not only will each participant be able to run around holding glowing umbrellas as a way to contribute to the ever-changing performance, but according to CSAIL director Daniela Rus, their contributions will also help lend insight into some questions sought within the fields of robotics and computer science.

“We have found that there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained at the intersection of art and science that offers deep insight into human behavior,” Rus said in a statement. “Findings that are incredibly useful to the field of computer science.”

While the event was open to public participation in the past, this year’s event is only open to MIT community.

The show will start at 8 p.m. at MIT’s Jack Barry Field in Cambridge.

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