–Update: If anyone knows of places that would like to have an interactive, cross-species exhibit like this, please contact me at Andrew.Quitmeyer|||gmail.com —
Antmongous is an embodied, interactive exhibit that will be distributed throughout the Castleberry Hill area and will encourage participant exploration by emergently provoking individuals or groups to follow ant-designated pathways in real time.
CASTLEBERRY HILL FOR ANTS
First, we shall replicate the networked layout of the Flux festival location as a 1/175 (ant-scale) abstracted model from inexpensive laser cut acrylic (see image). Since the core area of the Flux festival takes place in a roughly 300m X 400m geographical area, the ant-sized model will be approximately 1.7m x 2.3m, or the size of a large table.
The colony will be recursively loaded into the miniature model with the Queen and brood placed in the region of the model corresponding to the model’s location in the real world.Pathways such as roads, alleys, and building interiors will be featured in the model as areas accessible to the ants. The model’s restricted areas (like rooftops or sides of buildings) will be elevated and coated in Teflon paint (Fluon) to make sure that the ants only have analogous access to the same places the human audience.
I create open-source software for visually analyzing the positions and movements of ants within our laboratory environment. This same software can be adapted for real-time tracking of the ants in the model.
Using ants’ positions within the model, we will make their presence felt in the corresponding locations in the actual world.
Positional data will transmit wirelessly to a mesh network of inexpensive, battery-powered XBee microcontrollers. The XBees, in turn, will turn lights lining the sidewalks on-and-off corresponding to the presence or absence of an ant in the analogous location. Thus, an ant walking through the model’s virtual intersection of Bradbury and Fair Street illuminates lamps in the actual location.
In this way, the ants can be felt crawling throughout the village. An advantage of mesh networks is that, unlike a string of Christmas lights, if a problem at one node will not affect the others.
The dual audience (humans+ants) will symbiotically interact throughout the night.
Food sources (agar paste) will be placed in various locations within the ants’ model. In the corresponding real-world locations, we will also hide prize packages. The humans and ants will collectively discover rewards.
During searching and foraging stages, humans will “feel” the passages of ants wandering about the city as pulsing trails of light. Arrivals to the festival who know nothing of the underlying mechanics, may feel the urge to follow along with these light movement patterns and explore the exhibitsat the festival in tandem with the ants.