Sky Ear

Sky Ear had its last full-scale public launch on September 15, 2004 at Greenwich Park, London. There are currently no confirmed flights planned for the future, though various discussions continue [ see the event website for full information archive on the project ].

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Electromagnetic fields (EMF) exist just about everywhere in our atmosphere. Urban locations in particular have a diverse and vibrant hertzian culture, with mobile phone calls overlapping text messages, combining television broadcasts with garage door openers that interfere with radio transmissions and wireless laptops, etc., not to mention the natural EMF that already exists in the atmosphere. This project is a spatial investigation of some of these phenomena.

Sky Ear is a non-rigid carbon-fibre "cloud", embedded with one thousand glowing helium balloons and several dozen mobile phones. The balloons contain miniature sensor circuits that respond to electromagnetic fields, particularly those of mobile phones. When activated, the sensor circuits co-ordinate to cause ultra-bright coloured LEDs to illuminate. The 30m cloud glows and flickers brightly as it floats across the sky.

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As people using phones at ground-level call into the cloud (flying up to 100m above them) they are able to listen to distant natural electromagnetic sounds of the sky (including whistlers and spherics). Their mobile phone calls change the local hertzian topography; these disturbances in the electromagnetic fields inside the cloud alter the glow patterns of that part of the balloon cloud. Feedback within the sensor network creates ripples of light reminiscent of rumbling thunder and flashes of lightning.

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Sky Ear shows both how a natural invisible electromagnetism pervades our environment and also how our mobile phone calls and text messages delicately affect the new and existing electromagnetic fields.

Video documentation, Quicktime: 12Mb file

For full archive information, including photos, videos and development process please see the event website.

Sky Ear has flown in various forms at:

And has appeared in documentary form at:

[This project is financially assisted by The Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology. Thanks also to Seth Garlock, Senseinate, Inc. for electronics and Rolf Pixley, Anomalous Research, for software development. Photos by Shade Abdul, Ai Hasegawa and David Rothschild]. Carbon fibre tubing for framework by RBJ Plastics, UK.

November 2013: Please note that Haque Design + Research is now Umbrellium, where more up-to-date information can be found Umbrellium