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'Aleph reorganizing vision' is a kinetic reflection display system by Bengt Sjölén(CV) and Adam Somlai-Fischer(CV) 2005 December - 2007 May Creative Commons License

Timeline ›› Opening 2007 May 4th ‹‹ Construction 2007 March ‹‹ Prototype testing 2007 January ‹‹ technological specification 2006 November ‹‹ site visit 2006 Aug ‹‹ Belsay hall competition won 2006 May ‹‹ entering a call for Juha Huskonnen curator 2006 April ‹‹ Honorary mention at heat of Budapest architectural competition 2006 Feb ‹‹ First blogs publish 2005 November

Aleph is an experimental public display, that is using the spaces, people and objects it faces as a palette to display messages from hidden viewpoints. When looking at a small mirror, it reflects a fraction of the space around us, when looking at a mirror façade, it reflects most things around us, containing segments that are dark or bright, red or green. But if we build a matrix of small mirrors, which can adjust their tilt according to the site they are facing, we can create a display that uses the ever changing flux of the place to show images from certain points in space.
Concept explaining collage This image is generated from unedited photos using a mirror and tilting it to reflect various brightness levels (see it large)

It will not be comprehendible from all viewpoints, just from specific ones, asking visitors to explore the space, or providing surprising flashes in a public setup that can stay around the edge of comprehension. We can for example limit this point to the height of a child, so whenever she or he looks at the mirror, drawings emerge from the reflections of the clouds, drawings that appear only for them, that adults will not be able to see.

A computer is using cameras to continuously analyze the surroundings, implement interaction and distribute targeting information to a network of microcontrollers positioning the mirrors.
Processing (java) simulation Try this simulation: click on the image, press d and f to display and flatten images, press i to change images (mirror locations)

The biggest challenge is developing the mechatronics for positioning the mirrors with precision and speed at a low cost which is essential in order to make a massive amount of mirrors. Several technologies are evaluated to find the one best suited. For example voice coil actuators, consisting of a wire loop and a permanent magnet, and solenoids might be the most effective way to move mirrors and are thoroughly investigated.

About the name

The name comes from a fictional point of singularity by Jorge Luis Borges:

Aleph is a point in space that contains all other points. Anyone who gazes into it can see everything in the universe from every angle simultaneously, without distortion, overlapping or confusion.

"Under the step, toward the right, I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brightness. At first I thought it was spinning; then I realized that the movement was an illusion produced by the dizzying spectacles inside it. The Aleph was probably two or three centimeters in diameter, but universal space was contained within it, with no diminution in size. Each thing (the glass surface of a mirror, let us say) was infinite things, because I could clearly see it from every point in the cosmos. I saw the populous sea, saw dawn and dusk, saw the multitudes of the Americas, saw a silvery spiderweb at the center of a black pyramid, saw a broken labyrinth (it was London), saw endless eyes, all very close, studying themselves in me as though in a mirror, saw all the mirrors on the planet (and none of them reflecting me), saw in a rear courtyard on Calle Soler the same tiles I'd seen twenty years before in the entryway of a house on Fray Bentos, saw clusters of grapes, snow, tobacco, veins of metal, water vapor, saw convex equatorial deserts and their every grain of sand...."

The Aleph, Jorge Luis Borges
(source: wikipedia.org)

The project, as an installation,  got commissioned for the Belsay hall contemporary arts program in the UK, to be shown between March 2007 to September 2007.  This event  supported by English Heritage and DOTT uk, curated by Judith King, and Juha Huuskonen.

We joined up with artists Tamás Szakál, Péter Szakál, Andrea Bernscherer (nextlab.hu) to make the installation happen.

Update(2007 May 4):
Opening day at Belsay

(download higher quality version: 11Mb, or 110Mb HD)



After visiting the site, we decided to install it in the garden, outdoors.  To reach the required level of stability within the budget we are using power side mirrors from cars.

The installation is experienced as a large matrix of reflections of the actual environment on mirrors that can be electronically tilted,‭ ‬so reflections are changing and eventually building up images and other visual information.‭  ‬This is perceived fully from one specific viewpoint at a time,‭ ‬while getting fragmented by moving away from it.‭ ‬The installation produces its content in response to the presence,‭ ‬position and behavior of visitors

CAD pdf link, a detailed drawing if the installation

Video simulation with car mirrors (2 mb xvid)

The mirrors,‭ '‬pixels‭' ‬of the installation are made from power side mirrors of cars‭ (‬most likely Citroen zx‭ ‬mirrors‭) ‬that have a sufficient angle to reach our goal and are built very robust and weather proof.‭ ‬Movement is achieved by‭ ‬2‭ ‬small electric motors within the casing,‭ ‬which we control with our own technology.

‭ Each mirror is equipped with a small circuit board with a microcontroller,‭ ‬a motor driver and an angle sensor.‭

The cameras are used for analyzing the environment seen through the mirrors and the programs running on the server will use this information to position the mirrors and thereby controlling what the visitors will see.‭ ‬There will be cameras placed in front of the mirrors to report visible reflections as well as within the mirrors,‭ ‬inside the structure to map the environment and sense the visitors.

layout pattern options

15 mirrors 15 mirrors 2

Segment movement testing with 15 Mirrors

Construction in Budapest

Building images from Budapest, from nextlab.hu

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About Belsay Hall
Our site is a very unique place, with a magical quarry garden with huge plants.
Click images for larger version:

Aleph is constructing stories from fragments it finds around itself. By reflecting what is there now, it shuffles the present, and shows images that are not really there. This can be experienced as shift in space just as well a shift in time. The name we chose, Aleph, from Borges talks about a point in space, that contains all other points, where time falls into a singularity.

This experience is like where the actual environment starts to carry something fictional. It is where the stains on the walls can become a medium, they mediate the space, and this is exactly how we felt about Belsay Hall.

For us, Belsay Hall has a very unique duality. Every little corner feels loaded with hidden stories, with the histories of the place, but at the same time, as the buildings are emptied out, the place acts as a framework, that is waiting for new interpretations to happen, new uses to emerge.

Perhaps Aleph is revealing something from this. Perhaps this will only be our personal relation to this connection, and not really visible for other. Either way, the very strong atmosphere of Belsay has influenced our work, as we have been working with these images in our minds for many months.

Related projects and concepts

There have been quite a few people and projects creating alternative displays, from room lights, to water drops, even we have been experimenting with rotating pixels before.

Also using reflections from tilting mirrors to create images is a technology used in most projectors, called DLP, that is very similar, of course on a much smaller scale.

Building displays from kinetically moving objects was researched by Daniel Rozin a decade ago, who created many beautiful projects, we especially like the trash mirror.

Also, we need to mention photo mosaic, the process of creating large images from many smaller ones in software.

Given all the above, once we had the idea in 2005 to use the colors reflected on moving mirrors from the environment to shuffle new information into the same data, we thought that we really would like build it. Not for technological innovation, nor for artistic novelty, but simply out of curiosity, and believing that whatever we build, we will anyhow take things forward.

Facade system 

facadeAs we see the concept as a great architectural element, we are continously in discussion with possible partners and architectural projects for this.  Have a look at this large rendering to see how we image aleph large scale.  By tilting tiles of glass one could play with natural reflection and truly transparent areas, something regular glass facades can't achieve.

contact us if you are interested to learn more

In 2006 January we entered an architectural competition together with EEA Budapest, office, led by Judit Z Halmágyi, and András Kangyal, Anita Pozna and Barbara Sterk in our team. The illustration on the left is a product of this. We received honorary mention.


2006 March

Videos of simulation using camera input, how this would feel with a changing environment
aleph_02.mov and a video using simple image recognition to only displace the background and not the people in front

2005 December

Processing simulations  
1200 high resolution images and source pack October 25, 2005 7:41 PM
1200 grayscale September 14, 2005 11:05 AM
4800 grayscale September 14, 2005 11:05 AM
1200 nbs color distance September 14, 2005 11:05 AM
videos of a simulated mirror 1, 2 September 16, 2005 11:05 AM
mixed reality video 1 September 18, 2005 11:05 AM
data folder September 14, 2005 11:05 AM