Can synthetic nature aid us in re-connecting to our environment?
The Brickets are a collection of networked electronic devices that mimic the communication dynamics of large numbers of creatures such as frogs, crickets, cicadas or fire-flies. Installed outdoors, and recharged every day by the energy of the sun, these devices sense their environment in a number of ways. Brickets create an ambient network of chirps and flashing lights to communicate water or soil moisture data.
These small solar powered audio-visual devices are roughly the shape and size of a brick, hence their name – Brickets. The devices collectively create an ecology of chirping sounds in a public, urban setting. Each Bricket contains an electronic circuit that produces digitally generated chirps and also contains a bright LED light that glows every time the device produces a chirp.
Brickets are capable of listening to data sensors in their environment, communicating among themselves and receiving information every time another device chirps. The regularity of the chirping depends on the responses of the neighbouring Brickets. Different devices will tend to couple more strongly with their neighbours, producing pockets of synchrony as the population of Brickets moves between chaos and a common period of calling.
When a Bricket chirps, an LED lights up on the device’s face, visualising the duration of the playback of the chirp. Brickets charge up their batteries using their in-built solar panel during the daylight hours, and then expend the energy as sound and light during the night.
Brickets are designed to be able connect to the daily water consumption of a household. Just as frogs call after prolonged rain, so too would the Brickets sing if the household’s water use fell below a daily threshold. The devices would begin to call after dusk, and would serve as daily reminder to encourage thrifty water usage. A hushed evening would indicate too much water was consumed.
In addition to monitoring environmental data, this piece investigates the audio-visual qualities of coupled-oscillator synchronisation, the latter being a technical term for the types of synchronisation found in nature, such as flashing fire-flies, synchronised frog calls, synchronisation of pace-maker cells in the heart, circadian rhythms and so on.