2012 Olympics showpiece: Big bubbles in the sky

A gossamer cloud of LED-laced "bubbles" supported by towers may hover above London while broadcasting real-time data and images.

Artist's rendering of the Cloud structure envisioned for the 2012 Olympics in London. MIT Senseable City Laboratory

An extensive team of engineers, designers, and architects from around the world unveiled plans on Monday to create a digitally connected structure to grace the 2012 Olympics in London.

The structure, called the Cloud, is both a physical and digital cloud designed to broadcast real-time data and images on spherical, three-dimensional screens. While the images would float high above the city, the sound would be broadcast at ground level.

Carlo Ratti, head of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a team leader on the project that includes experts from across the world and Google as a partner. Ratti is known for his work on a textualizing waterfall at the Zaragoza World's Fair in 2008, the Real Time Rome population-tracking project, and the EyeStop bus shelters throughout Florence, Italy .

In a statement, Ratti referred to the Cloud as a "new form of collective expression and experience and an updated symbol of our dawning age: code rather than carbon."

The Cloud will power itself, using a combination of solar energy from photovoltaic panels installed both on- and off-site.

The team wants to build the Cloud from money donated by individuals and companies through a "cloud raising" effort that will use the digital cloud to solicit donations. Facebook, Twitter, and Google are already on board to support the effort. Google plans to run adds via YouTube and its search results pages, according to MIT.

The structure is flexible enough in design that it can be modestly built for $5 million or be expanded to a $50 million project, depending on how much money is raised.

In addition to the many artists, architects, engineers, and computer scientists collaborating on the project, the team also includes legendary author Umberto Eco among its advisers.

About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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