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Brief Published: 30 Jul 2014

Digital Smoke Signals

Binairy Talk installation

The rise of wireless communication has left the air around us awash with information – invisible to the human eye and often taken for granted. An art installation from students at the Köln International School of Design (KISD) in Germany visualises this information transfer with a far more ancient medium – smoke signals.

Binairy Talk, created by Niklas Isselburg and Jakob Killian, pulses smoke rings through a laser sensor across the room. The smoke rings are read as ones and zeros, and subsequently translated into a message onscreen.

The artists explain on their website: "The installation wants to create awareness as to how much data and information constantly surrounds us, and makes the 'Ones and Zeros' perceivable to the observer."

The idea of making ephemeral data present and tangible has been explored elsewhere – see our blog post about an art studio that visualised real-time CO2 emissions with giant smoke rings.

Experimenting with ephemeral communication is an ongoing trend – see MisTable: Reach-Through Interfaces and SensaBubble: Scent Messages for more. For further examples of creatives using mist and smoke forms in their work, check out Berndnaut Smilde's Floating Cload and Edible Flavoured Mist.