Geo Week News

May 19, 2017

Velodyne Lidar and Modern Art

Image credit: Wenyu Xu, courtesy of Velodyne Lidar

Though I’m hardly alone in my love for abstract art generated with lidar, it hasn’t really made its way into the museum. Or, not until recently.

In April, artist collective Cloud Eye Control staged a show in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as part of the Performance All Ages program. As Cloud Eye Control member Chi-wang Yang explained to SFMOMA, the show is designed to engage visitors in “thinking specifically about the different kinds of technologies that are changing how we think about our bodies in an environment.”

One of those technologies, of course, is lidar. For a long time, it has been a specialist technology, but with the rise of UAVs, robotics, and autonomous vehicles, we’re about to start interacting with lidar on a daily basis. Since very few people even know what lidar is, Cloud Eye Control wanted to include it in their project.

Since the technology is prohibitively expensive for use in art contexts, SFMOMA connected Cloud Eye Control with Velodyne, who provided a HDL-32E. The collective mounted the sensor on a seven-foot column in the middle of the floor, where it scanned visitors. “This is a great opportunity for us as artists,” Yang noted, “to bring [lidar]into the museum and give the public a way to interact with something that is about to change all our lives.”

The final effect, Cloud Eye Control hoped, is to give the audience a chance to understand the ins and outs of the technology in a way that is rarely available. Visitors were encouraged to move and experiment with the sensors to understand the particular way that lidar reads the environment.

For more information about the show, and how it incorporated “psychic blobs,” see SFMOMA’s blog or Velodyne’s write-up on the event.

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