Lovell Telescope at Bluedot Festival; Lovell Telescope at Bluedot Festival;

COSMOS at Bluedot Festival, Jodrell Bank

Exploring deep space through immersive digital art

Bluedot festival not only offers live music, but merges art and science through immersive digital artworks, talks and interactive experiments to engage with the science and cosmic culture community. The four days of festivities take place with the iconic Lovell Telescope as a backdrop, at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, a UNESCO World heritage site. 

Since 2017 Arup has collaborated with digital art curators Abandon Normal Devices (AND) to provide audio and visual design engineering support on their 'COSMOS' installation - a collaboration between The University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory, AND and Cheshire East Council for the telescope.

Each summer, COSMOS invites an international artist to create a new work developed for Lovell Telescope, which will be showcased during the festival. It offers a unique opportunity for artists and scientists to experiment with data collected by the Lovell Telescope and gain new perspectives on the observatory’s research.

Project Summary

50,000 laser points per second - capture rate

3rdlargest telescope in the world

Collaborating with Arup on the COSMOS commissions has been inspiring adventure. The teams’ innovative expertise and creativity have made truly ground-breaking artworks and audience experiences possible. ” Ruth McCullough Abandon Normal Devices Director

Enabling projection mapping using LiDAR scanning

To bring the artists’ creation to life, a highly accurate model of the telescope is needed from the outset. This facilitates projection mapping, which is the display of images, often irregularly shaped, on a non-flat surface. 

Arup’s digital experts used LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanning - a remote sensing method that uses lasers to create 3D points between the laser and a given object, structure or landscape, and collects measurements that are used to create point clouds, 3D models and maps of objects and environments - at a rate of 50,000 laser points per second to build a high-resolution point cloud model of the structure. 

The team scanned the entire telescope over three days, from 50 different positions - 30 at ground level and 20 from the top of the dish. The data captured was then used to align the projection mapping designs with the 3D model Arup developed, helping project the imagery accurately with the correct distortions onto the surface of the dish.
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Immersive experiences through virtual reality and sound

COSMOS 2019 sees Dr. Julie Freeman of the Open Data Institute as the artist in residence. Dr. Freeman is developing a new immersive audio-visual (AV) experience which brings together Jodrell Bank Observatory’s world leading research and Arup’s LiDAR scans of this iconic heritage site. In Freeman’s virtual reality (VR) experience, I̶n̛t͘e͟rf̕e̢ren̵ce, audiences will step into a world of visual and sonic celestial data flows and cosmic interference, in the pursuit of deep-space pulsars, truly engaging them in this astronomical location. To ensure a fully immersive experience, Arup has produced the technical spatial audio element for a full 3D sound.

Celebrating the historic moon landing

This year, 2019 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing. To mark this we created a VR experience which transports the public onto the surface of the moon and immerses them into divergent futures for our planet. The experience enables guests to envision four plausible scenarios based on variable planetary health and societal conditions, supported by holographic narrators.  

© Chris Foster

In the spirit of celebrating science and the exploration of the universe, we engaged with a local primary school, Hermitage Primary School in Holmes Chapel, to design a VR experience. Children used their creativity to visualise how the moon would be used in 50 years, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the lunar landings. Our team of designers then worked with the students to develop a 3D VR experience which will be incorporated into the Bluedot showcase.

Bringing audio-visual art to life 

As part of COSMOS 2018, acoustic designers at Arup worked with artist Addie Wagenknecht and Abandon Normal Devices to design and produce an immersive 360⁰ soundscape for Hidden in Plain Sight. The soundscape accompanied visuals, created by Wagenknecht, which were projected onto Jodrell Bank’s iconic Lovell Telescope during the festival. The audio element was driven by radio astronomy signals received by the Lovell Telescope and created a vivid connection to the projected visual patterns produced by the artist.

Previous installations

To produce the soundscape at Bluedot Festival 2018, Arup designed a multichannel spatial audio loudspeaker system specifically to encircle the audience within the field. The soundscape enveloped and immersed observers, extending the visual projection beyond the structure of the telescope and helped to create a unique atmosphere for festival goers, enjoying the spectacle of an artist’s visualisation.

In 2017, Daito Manabe+Rhizomatiks Research, created, Celestial Frequencies, a ground breaking data-driven AV work using a mixture of deep space data collected on-site in real-time.

Hidden in Plain Sight by Addie Wagenknecht, played with the notion of access to data and how infrastructure is designed to be ignored.
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