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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Soft Grid

Soft Grid

Soft Grid is a kinetic installation made from a low cost, interactive pneumatic system. Inspired by natural environments, a forest of pillars populate the grid and serve as a festive and playful place for community gathering. Each pole is attached with nine balloons in a radial pattern. The nine balloons were divided into three groups, corresponding to three ranges of height : within range of vision; near the ground; and in the above. Thus, the inflation or deflation of the balloons at different heights of stages can give the observers various feelings.

The device’s response to the environment changes according to the observers’ behaviour, as detected by the sensors. This set of perception system consists of a sensing floor and several cameras. The sensing floor must meet the conditions of modularity, which can increase the flexibility of scene construction and reduce installation costs. With the help of the cameras, blind spots can be eliminated, so that the reliability of the entire perception system is greatly improved. If only a single system of sensitive floor is used, the environment can only detect the location of the visitor. But with the help of the camera, it can even analyse some specific behaviours of the human and capture the signals generated during the interaction (human-human interaction/ human-machine interaction). This allows more possibilities for the design of Soft Grid.









Soft Grid uses a three-tiered system in order to encourage users movement through the environment. Upon entering an environment people tend to reach out to check for a reaction, before moving in to approach something unfamiliar.


In our hypothesis, balloons in the average range of vision will be triggered first, responding to the observers in a rhythmic pulse. Then the balloons near the ground start pulsing which leads a path into the centre of the grid, encouraging the observers to follow for a more sustained interaction. If the observer’s position is not inclined to move, the balloons’ rhythm will extend to the top group in the pole and spreads to the surrounding columns.

Strain gauges are attached to each balloon to collect volume data and provide a feedback loop for software to precisely control the balloon’s size. This prevents the balloon being inflated too much, to ensure the safety and reliability of the device.