Space Replay floats hauntingly through spaces
echoing its surroundings

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Design students from London's Royal College of Art have created a mysterious floating spherical object that drifts through public spaces recording conversations and plays them back when there's nobody around (+ movie).

Space Replay floats hauntingly through spaces echoing its surroundings

Designers Francessco Tacchini, Julinka Ebhardt and Will Yates-Johnson created the Space Replay installation to emit echoes of human presence in public spaces.

"We aimed to draw people's attention to their acoustic surroundings and the temporary way in which we pass through public spaces," explained the designers. "Creating a device that records the noises we make raises sinister questions about the ever-present surveillance in our urban environment."

Space Replay floats hauntingly through spaces echoing its surroundings

The sphere contains a speaker and a battery-powered sensory device hacked by the designers to record and playback audio.

Space Replay floats hauntingly through spaces echoing its surroundings

The components are encased within a vacuum-formed plastic core and placed inside a latex balloon.

Space Replay floats hauntingly through spaces echoing its surroundings

The designers created the cone-shaped plastic centre to improve the sound quality resonating from the speaker, whilst protecting the surrounding latex outer-skin from sharp edges.

Space Replay floats hauntingly through spaces echoing its surroundings

A measured amount of helium was added to the balloon, enabling it to reach its buoyancy point and hover.

The balloon travels through spaces according to the natural flow of air in the surrounding environment, which is altered as people move through each space.

Space Replay floats hauntingly through spaces echoing its surroundings

"The sphere responds sonically to people and its surroundings," said the designers. "By recording and replaying the ambient sounds it picks up, Space Replay produces an echo of human activity."

Here's a project description from the designers:


Space Replay

The project is a collaboration in-between two departments at the Royal College of Art. It was realised by Julinka Ebhardt, Will Yates-Johnson from Design Products and Francesco Tacchini from Information Experience Design.

Space Replay mediates between people, technology and places by recording and replaying the ambient sounds it picks up, producing a delayed echo of human activity. It takes the form of a floating spherical object that explores and manipulates transitional public spaces with particular acoustic properties.

Space Replay floats hauntingly through spaces echoing its surroundings

From a technical perspective the sphere contains a battery-powered Arduino Uno, a Wave Shield hacked to record sound and a small speaker. The components were inserted into a custom designed lightweight polypropylene "sound cone" — in order to enhance the sound coming from the speaker and protect the balloon from the wires and PCB edges. The balloon was filled with enough helium to be able to lift everything and float, reaching its buoyancy point. The final prototype weighs 120 grams, comprising electronics, packaging and balloon.

  • Mia Hart

    This invention is almost creepy but also awesome. I would love to go to that place and see for myself how the object just floats around. Like is the ball on some sort of track? How does it work exactly?

  • http://www.bradleylbowers.com/ Bradley L Bowers

    This is awesome!!!! Nicely done!!!!

  • olof

    Beautiful, haunting vid. Love it, good job.

  • Romain_M

    Didn’t they suggest that the ball reacted to natural airflow within the space? I came to the conclusion that the ball didn’t move on its own power, it was displaced by wind drafts and people moving around it. Maybe I misread.

    • pipo

      Yes it’s just a balloon, you know one of those things you had flying around your house as a kid.
      I like the project as a critique of urban surveillance. Nice job.

  • dan

    Really nice project.

  • Paul

    Half Life to drones.