- Sydney, Australia
- 21ksocial impressions
RAY was an interactive light sculpture designed to raise awareness about energy poverty. Charged through a solar array by day and the kinetic energy of visitors by night, RAY was Vivid Sydney’s first ever solar-powered installation. It was also the festival’s first talking sculpture, with audiences able to interact with the activation through a dedicated website and on social media through the hashtag #HiRay.
Over 800 million people worldwide have no access to electricity. As we look to the future, renewable energy sources such as solar power represent a key tool in tackling the problem of energy poverty. Looking to raise awareness about this issue, and the work of one social enterprise to solve it, we helped create RAY, an interactive light sculpture first debuted at the annual Vivid Sydney festival.
Powered by Australia’s largest ever solar-powered audio-visual production system, RAY’s 9,000 LED lights and 500 metres of silicon tubing brought Sydney’s foreshore to life with a stunning display of light and sound. In doing so, it demonstrated the power of interactivity and experiential marketing to get people interested in and excited about renewable energy.
RAY was the first solar-powered installation ever hosted at Vivid Sydney. The sculpture was powered by a 1.2kilowatt mobile solar array developed by Southern Cross University. Designed to look like a giant sunflower, this portable system of energy generation and lithium-ion battery storage captured enough solar energy throughout the festival to power 3,000 homes in India for a night, helping to demonstrate the possibilities of solar energy solutions.
While RAY absorbed energy from the ‘sunflower’ solar array during the day, by night we invited audiences to use their own kinetic energy to bring the installation to life. Pulling on light ropes at three ‘charging pods’ around the installation’s base, visitors would send streams of light from their hands up into the sculpture.
To enhance the interactivity of the activation even further, we engineered RAY to respond differently depending on the intensity of the interaction. By triggering different light and sound sequences for children, adults, individuals and groups, we were able to demonstrate the installation’s direct response to specific audience interactions.
When fully charged, RAY would overflow in a captivating display of colour, light and sound. Powered by the potent combination of audience interaction and solar energy, this nature-themed celebration was not only stunning to behold, but a compelling demonstration of the power of individual actions in promoting sustainable energy solutions.
To keep the conversation going beyond the physical event, we also brought RAY’s story online through a wide-reaching digital marketing campaign. At any point in time, audiences could access detailed statistics about the installation’s solar energy consumption, power storage, air quality and visitor analytics online through the colourful HiRay website.
We then translated this data feed into automated updates on social media using the sculpture’s own unique voice. People all around the world were also able to interact with RAY’s online persona in real time on social media. Using the hashtag #HiRay on Instagram and Twitter, audiences would receive spontaneous replies based on the sculpture’s analytics and surroundings, helping to give the data meaning and personality.
By asking audiences to work together to bring RAY to life, the installation served as a metaphorical call to action towards providing affordable, renewable and clean energy. With the impact of each interaction seen clearly through the light sculpture’s clear silicon tubes, we encouraged audiences to consider how their actions, no matter how big or small, can help to provide sustainable energy to those who need it most.
According to IBM’s ‘Heart of the City’, RAY was the most visited installation at Vivid Sydney 2014, with 353,559 visitors averaging a twenty-two-minute stay. Extending audience interaction beyond the physical installation through social media, RAY also generated 20,000 Facebook impressions, 450 Instagram photos and over 200 tweets during the two weeks that Vivid Sydney was live.
The project also received substantial media attention, with features in publications such as The Sydney Morning Herald, CNET, and Vice’s Creators Project. Due to RAY’s success in helping audiences explore the transformative power of solar energy, the light sculpture was subsequently displayed at locations around Sydney, including World Square and Cockle Bay Wharf.