Interactive art exhibits are a fantastic intersection of hardware and art, and without a practical goal or traditional product constraints they really shine. Artists have the creative freedom to build pieces that express complex and abstract ideas, instead of being restricted by what the market demands. That’s particularly apparent in the mesmerizing interactive installation Quantum Garden, which simulates an interesting quantum problem.
Quantum Garden was created by artist Robin Baumgarten, with help from scientists from the Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland and the Turku Quantum Technology Team from the University of Turku in Turku, Finland. Quantum Garden is currently on display at the Aalto University, and the art piece is designed to simulate “a complex time-dependent optimal control problem which is one of the key ingredients for realizing a quantum logic gate — the building block of a quantum computer.” It does that with lights and door stoppers springs — lots of them.
In total, Quantum Garden has 3,648 individually-addressable RGB LEDs arranged in rings on PCBs, 228 door stopper springs, three Teensy 3.2 boards, and a PC running a Python script to simulate that quantum problem. When Quantum Garden is left on it’s own, those LEDs light up in bursts from random origin points. But, the door stopper springs are actually inputs, and touching them generates fractal-like effects that represent the STIRAP (stimulated Raman adiabatic passage) quantum process. There is some serious science and math behind that process, but what’s actually important is that it looks really cool.