skye Sky Ear

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Sky Ear is a one-night event in which a glowing "cloud" of mobile phones and helium balloons is released into the air so that people can dial into the cloud and listen to the sounds of the sky.

The cloud consists of 1000 extra-large helium balloons that each contain 6 ultra-bright LEDs (which mix to make millions of colours). The balloons can communicate with each other via infra-red; this allows them to send signals to create larger patterns across the entire Sky Ear cloud as they respond to the electromagnetic environment (created by distant storms, mobile phones, police and ambulance radios, television broadcasts, etc.).

sky ear
sky ear
sky ear

sky ear - july 4 2004 sky ear - july 4 2004

The balloons are enclosed in a carbon fibre and net structure 25m in diameter tethered to the ground by 6 cables and held aloft at a height of about 60-100m where it will remain for several hours.

Using mobile phones people can listen to the actual sounds up high, the electromagnetic sounds of the sky as well as streams of "whistlers" and "spherics" (atmospheric electromagnetic phenomena that are the audible equivalent of the Northern Lights). Of course, the action of calling the cloud changes the electromagnetic environment inside and causes the balloons to vary in brightness and colour.

For more background to the project and test flight stages please click here.

sky ear
sky ear
sky ear

sky ear - july 4 2004 sky ear - july 4 2004

Sky Ear has had two successful launches, in Fribourg, Switzerland (July 4, 2004) and Greenwich, London (September 15, 2004). For photos of these two events, please see the images section.

Some frequently asked questions

Who answers the phones?
The phones are set to auto-answer and are strapped into the electronics.

What numbers do I call?
The numbers will be released on the night of the event in co-ordination with the launch; this way, as the numbers are phased in, only parts of the cloud will be responding to the mobile calls.

What started this project?
I was wandering around a park trying to find good signal on my mobile phone. I started to imagine the undulating qualities of an invisible topography that surrounded me: the varying electromagnetic fields (EMF) that are present everywhere and that guided me to certain parts of the space in much the same way that traditional architectural elements do. In Sky Ear, I wanted to give form to this space, to make visible the invisible

Sky Ear is a project by Usman Haque financially assisted by the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology.

Electronics & B2B network by Seth Garlock, Senseinate Inc. Software by Rolf Pixley, Anomalous Research Ltd.

Microcontrollers provided by Texas Instruments, Inc.

Carbon fibre tubing for framework by RBJ Plastics, UK

The July 4, 2004 flight is co-produced by Belluard Bollwerk International with the support of Canton Fribourg (Switzerland) and Fondation Nestle pour l'Art (Switzerland).