Many Hands Make Light Work

Work submitted to the 7mm Pitch by Central Park. This is the most recent of three creative projects submitted to this initiative.

Project Owner

  • ICT Techlab
  • Sydney College of the Arts
  • Sydney Conservatorium of Music
  • Sydney Medical School
  • Ramus Light
  • Vivid
  • Central Park
  • World Square

Project Credits

  • Jim Cook (ICT, TechLab)
  • Joon Choi (ICT, TechLab)
  • Dean Pisani (ICT, TechLab)
  • Julia Wong (ICT, TechLab)
  • Danju Visvanathan (ICT, TechLab)
  • Runa Alam (ICT, TechLab)
  • Bruce Ramus (Ramus Illuminations & Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning)
  • Philip Poronnik, Andrew Chan (School of Medical Sciences)
  • John Taylor, Ciaran Frame, Sam Gillespie, Cassie To, Jonathan Watson, Kezia Yap, Yang Liu, Nolan Huang, Ruiqiang Li, Ryotaro Nose, Webber Liu (Sydney Conservatorium of Music)
  • Marcus Dillon (Sydney College of the Arts)

Start Date

19 August 2015


First Run Completed: 20th May 2016 Second Run Completed: 01st June 2017 Third Run Completed 30th September 2017

Problem Statement

The University of Sydney

The University of Sydney is an Australian public research University. Founded in 1850, it is Australia’s first university and is regarded as one of its most prestigious, ranked as the world’s 27th most reputable University. The University Comprises sixteen faculties and prides itself on the promulgation of excellence in research and education.

Ramus Illuminations

The Work of Ramus Illuminations represents a new way to think about how we develop urban spaces, an inclusive model that offers the community a place to engage in creative expression. It is grounded in the idea that we as humans are gentle in nature, we are playful at heart, and we wish to have the opportunity to shape our own environments and our own destinies.

Central Park

Central Park is a major mixed-use urban renewal project in Sydney, Australia located on Broadway in the suburb of Chippendale. The development is focused on a new public park located just off Broadway of approximately 6,500 square meters in size. It incorporates the largest permanently installed video wall in a shopping center in the Southern Hemisphere.


A University Team of Academics, Students and Developers across multiple Faculties and support units will develop an interactive experience for the Central Park. Based around through series of research and educationally supported tenants. The Primary messages are:

  • Autoflourescence: Autofluorescence is the natural emission of light by biological structures such as mitochondria and lysosomes when they have absorbed light.

  • Fingerprints: Human fingerprints are detailed, unique, difficult to alter, and durable over the life of an individual making them suitable as long-term markers of human identity.

  • Sonification: Sonification is the use of non-speech audio to convey information or perceptualise data. Auditory perception has advantages in temporal, spatial, amplitude, and frequency resolution that open possibilities as an alternative or complement to visualisation techniques.

Wall displays “DNA of the living mall” this is an additive process similar to little sun There is slight movement and soft melody that is created by the culmination of the data collected so far. This “symphony of light and life” becomes more complex throughout the life of the installation.

User approaches pedestal, pedestal is simple enough and obvious enough that user is engaged to place hands on pedestal. Pedestal emits fluorescence, highlighting the unique handprint of the user. Local system captures handprint using open CV and transmits it to two streams of data manipulation. Wall displays a stylised 3D rendered handprint to avoid privacy issues (still unique). An audio track is created that is linked to the shapes and forms of the finger print. The handprint is added to the sphere, a print out of a token/qr code is printed with a link to their unique hand.

All data is databased on the web server so it can be retrieved later. User leaves the venue and later visits the website of the Installation and enters their unique code. A video is created for them which includes their unique fingerprint, audio and a story about how it all fits together, and their place in the DNA of the living mall. From here they can share to social media or download a copy. The video talks about the Autoflourescence and that ‘Matter is Energy’ (conservation of energy etc) based off of the light graffiti example.

Final Brief

Many Hands has been deployed in three locations and counting. It boasts over 10,000 interactions in its various installations across the Central Park shopping centre, and the World Square forecourt during vivid in 2017, where it took pride of place on a 10m x 10m screen. More recently, it was deployed at Marist Brothers High School during their mini-vivid event, and it is slated to be installed at Westmead Children’s hospital in 2018.

Challenges & Learnings

  • C1. Art installations that rely on Internet connections are a bad idea.
  • L1. Where ever possible embed libraries in an asset pipeline to reduce network impact. CDNs are not your friend with automated environments. If you must use an online databasing source, invest in redundancy of connection. This will greatly reduce the need and urgency in restarting the installation due to a lack of connection.

  • C2. People will inevitably use your interactive art installation as a way to contribute crass or explicit content.

  • L2. Security guards are great and reminders that the installation is a family friendly experience should be embedded where ever possible if they don’t detract from the experience.

Languages / Framework

Python, Three.js, MongoDB, Arduino, AppleScript

Links to Resources

Source Code

Secondary deployment patches