The Hidden Message in Our Digital Sculpture

BY Chris Lee

The tower sculpture on the side of our building is hiding a secret message.

When the time came for a makeover of the exterior of our building, we knew we wanted a bold statement that carried with it a sense of sophistication, while also hiding a secret message that only employees and friends (who are in on the secret) could appreciate.

We pride ourselves in our ability to integrate digital experiences into the fabric of a building for our customers. We wanted to have an example of that process as part of our office’s external appearance. Therefore, when the time came for a makeover of the exterior of our building, we needed something to help break up the monotony of the monolithic block walls of our masonry structure.

We quickly settled on a tower structure that consists of two large aluminum sheets. These sheets were perforated by an industrial waterjet cutter, bent on a radius, and welded to a frame. A local sign company worked with us to fabricate the structure to our specifications and attach it to our building.

To give the sculpture some visual energy, the entire height of the tower is back-lit with RGB LED strips. The LEDs are driven through a DMX decoder. The color and brightness of the LEDs are controlled remotely through a custom interface that is tied to our web site. A Raspberry Pi microcomputer receives schedule and color data via a custom API and sends DMX control information to the tower.

The Secret is in the Pattern Details
The pattern of perforations on the tower spells out “anode” in two ways: one purely binary, the other a digital representation of an analog signal.

Looking at the tower sculpture, you’ll notice that two distinct patterns of perforations appear over and over. These two patterns or symbols are our abstract representation of a binary zero and a binary one. A symbol that represents either a binary one or zero is called a digital “bit.

Binary_Images

Reading the tower from top to bottom, there are ten rows of four symbols. With four “bits” across each row, two rows taken together equal one eight-bit “byte” or digital string equating to an alphanumeric character. In our tower sculpture, the top two rows’ bits are 01100001 which is the ASCII binary code representing the letter “a.” This convention continues down the sign with the remaining letters n,o,d, and e.

Between each of the ten rows of bits are horizontal lines of varying lengths. When rotated 90 degrees as one object, these lines make up the digital representation of the audio waveform of a human voice (that of our VP of Technology, yours truly) speaking the word “anode.”

Tower_ProgressionImage

If you get a chance to visit our office, we hope you will appreciate our tower sculpture. Now, you also have a small bit of trivia to impress anyone you bring with you. Until your next visit, be sure to submit a lighting request. When the sun goes down, our tower sculpture will light up with your favorite color.

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