Kelly Heaton, Steve Gray, Paul Pham, Alex Jacobs, Michael Hawley
Personal Information Architecture Group & Toys of Tomorrow
MIT Media Laboratory

Research also funded in part by the Jacob Javits Fellowship Program
Thesis document (.pdf format viewable with Adobe Acrobat 4.0).

Peano and the Digital Palette.

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Peano is a building set comprised of fifty one-inch cubes that connect to form a modular, full-color display in three-dimensions.

The cubes are made from a colorless, diffusive plastic material. In the center of every Peano cube (hereafter abbreviated "cube") there is a single, multicolored LED that illuminates the entire volume to produce a full-spectrum of colored light.

The cubes join together in a modular network that supports direct and programmatic control over the animation of colored light in the structure. Although the topology of the network is linear, the geometry is three-dimensional. This is possible thanks to a two member shape grammar that forms a Peano Curve. A Peano Curve, sometimes referred to as a Hilbert Curve, is a linear structure that turns at 90-degree angles to define a three-dimensional space with Cartesian coordinates. The usefulness of the Peano geometry derives from the simplicity it affords a modular network. Because the Peano topology is linear, a one, two or three-dimensional geometry may be built from a set of elements that have only two connectors each. Due to the strict rules of the Peano shape grammar, a central processor can easily infer the structure of the display.

The Peano connectors are custom-designed to join in four orientations. Eight spring probe pins of the male connector mate with the female to provide power, ground, network connectivity and peer-to-peer communications (orientation and network topology). Mechanical support is achieved with magnetic connectors. (Connector design: Kelly Heaton and Alex Jacobs).
In the current version, there are two ways Peano can be controlled. First, we developed a desktop interface to the system that enables the user to write code for the blocks or paint them with colored light animation using ColorAnime. Second, Peano can be animated with the Digital Palette. Since the cubes are touch sensitive and aware of network topology, touch, orientation and sequence are all parameters of the physical system that can be used in the development of software behavior.
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