Building a Neuron-inspired Intersensory Dome

September 22, 2022

This was the first large-scale art installation that I helped build.

With a few amazing artists at Burning Man, we created an audio-visual-tactile experience featuring: suspended wire / LED neuron-like art sculptures, and a rumbling bass / massage floor synced to audio — to create an immersive experience to simulate as if you were inside a brain.

More on the build process below:

1) Construction of the dome

We assembled a steel geodesic dome from large metal poles, and a ton of nuts, bolts, and washers (we definitely had to get creative with balancing + building amidst dust storms and high wind speeds).

2) Creation of wire / light sculptures

This involved bending wire armature into different shapes and sizes: with some level of consistency but also room for artistic discretion. The picture below shows the base structure, but we added additional bends and dendrites for organic variance.

3) Suspension of neurons

Upon completion, we had a total of 11 neurons, with each spanning approximately 7ft in length, ornamented with more than 1,000 total LED lights. After making the finishing touches, we suspended them around the dome, keeping in mind spatial density and distribution.

4) Point mapping of sculptures to Blender

This was a painstaking process – we took measurements of each wire lengths, and manually counted the number of LEDs on each segment. We then created splines in Blender, a 3d modeling software, and arranged points on them so we could export their relevant shapes.

5) Programming the lights

After we got individual point maps into SL studio, another software where we could program the colors, we layered on different algorithms (cross fade, volumetric, etc) to program each individual LED.

6) Bass floor + spatial / surround sound system install

With the lights and scenery set, we did some fine tuning and mixing of sounds in Ableton, wired up speakers, and went through multiple rounds of testing to make sure there was no clipping, while still optimizing for the highest throughput of bass vibrations.

In the future, we’d like to explore possibilities of syncing up this installation to more biosensors for more interactivity (ie meditating with an EEG headset, and syncing brain activity to the LED programs — or syncing the vibrating bass floor to heart rate).

Another picture of the final result below!