The heliOscillator is an audio visual installation created for the University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind. Made in colaboration with fellow artist and musician Jamie Salmon, Professor Róbertus von Fáy-Siebenbürgen and PhD student Nabil Freij of the university’s applied mathematics department.

The body of the heliOscillator (lovingly constructed by Mr Rafe Dunn) is a 7 part modular screen. Each module is embedded with light dependant resistors, allowing the light of the projector hitting the screen to be measured in 42 different points over its surface, each sensors measurement is then used to control the pitch of an oscillator.

The projection itself is a data visualisation based around observations of individual sunspots. Each hexagon section represents one sunspot, and the colour and shading of its subsections reflect the change in size and darkness of that spot over time. The data counts round the hexagon in these triangle sections like a clock, always displaying the last 6 data points for comparison. The 6 sub sections match up with the light sensors, so every change in colour and intensity is measured and reflected in sound.

The software for the visualisation was created using the OpenFrameworks toolkit. The light sensor data is captured via an Arduino micro controller and interpreted as sound using Max/Msp.