Hosted by Aaron Koblin, Data Artist and Creative Director of the Data Arts team in Google's Creative Lab, Floating Pixels was a one-day workshop that brought together students and researchers from MIT to explore new developments and forms of scanning technology.

Inspired by Aaron’s previous work on Radiohead’s video “House of Cards,” which used light scanning to digitally capture lead singer Thom York and landscape scenes, participants of Floating Pixels built their own low-tech, portable structured light scanners to pixelate their faces with Processing.

By simply connecting a mini-projector, webcam and IPhone, a structured-light scanner is assembled and real-world objects are ready to be captured in 3D and manipulated with software.

The mini-projector projects a series of horizontal line patterns of light using images uploaded on the IPhone.

The webcam is offset slightly from the mini-projector, it looks at the shape deformations of the line pattern and uses a technique similar to triangulation to calculate the distance of every point of the line pattern. Lastly, an algorithm is used to calculate the distance at each point in the pattern to form a digital 3D replication of the scanned object.

Today, scanning technology is miniaturizing and developing at a rapid pace, allowing us to digitally capture more objects than ever before at lower costs. In the near future, smartphones with micro-projectors will be developed, becoming a natural step towards 3D scanners that can travel with us in our pockets.

Aaron Koblin is an artist specializing in data visualization. His work takes social and infrastructural data and uses it to depict cultural trends and emergent patterns. Aaron’s work has been shown at Ars Electronica, SIGGRAPH, OFFF, and TED. He received the National Science Foundation’s first place award for science visualization and is part of the permanent collection of the MoMa in New York.


Instructions & Materials

Instructables -

Makerbot -

Processing -

House of Cards -


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    Senseable City Lab

  • Carlo Ratti, Director
  • Aaron Koblin, Artist in Residence
  • Adam Pruden, Team Leader
  • Erich Mueller
  • Bettina Urcuioli
  • Dustin York
  • Jennifer Dunnam
  • Thanks to

  • Doug Fritz
  • Arts at MIT

  • Leila W. Kinney
  • Meg Rotzel
  • Sam Magee
  • Carla Sehbani