MIT Members Invited to Color Nighttime Sky with Pilobolus & UP: The Umbrella Project

MIT students, faculty and staff are invited to come light up the Cambridge sky during the second performance of UP: The Umbrella Project on Sunday, May 19 at 7:45 p.m. at Jack Barry Field. A collaboration between the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and internationally acclaimed dance company Pilobolus, UP will bring together members of the MIT community to participate in a large-scale live performance piece using umbrellas outfitted with LED lights.
Each UP participant will be provided with an umbrella equipped with red, green and blue LED lights. Using hand controllers designed by researchers in the MIT Distributed Robotics Lab at CSAIL, participants will be able to independently change the color of their umbrella. Guided by the Pilobolus creative team, UP participants will traverse the field and manipulate the hue of their umbrellas, creating a colorful and ever-changing display of live art.
UP premiered at the PopTech Conference in Maine in October 2012, when more than 300 participants transformed a rainy sky into a sea of changing colors. This is the second collaboration between the Distributed Robotics Lab, led by CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, and Pilobolus; the two organizations first joined forces on Seraph, a performance piece involving human dancers and flying robots.
Bringing together a large group of people to participate in a collaborative effort fits well with the overall research goal of the Distributed Robotics Lab.
“Our work deals with developing algorithms that allow robots to operate independently within a large decentralized network so that the robots can coordinate and work together to accomplish a common task,” said Dr. Kyle Gilpin, a postdoctoral associate at CSAIL. “Through UP, we can study the behaviors of large groups, which can be applied to our research in robotics.”
“We are thrilled to be collaborating with Pilobolus again and to be bringing UP to MIT. This performance provides an exciting community for MIT students to come together and participate in a piece of art,” said Rus. “While our work with robotics and Pilobolus’ work with modern dance may seem at first glance unrelated, we have found there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained at the intersection of art and science that offers deep insight into human behavior, findings that are incredibly useful to the field of computer science.”
"We've discovered that Daniela Rus is interested in the same questions as we are regarding the power of groups and the idea that groups are more capable than the sum of their parts,” explained Itamar Kubovy, executive Director of Pilobolus. “UP works to demonstrate this reality by giving a group of untrained strangers tricked out umbrellas and 60 minutes to create something beautiful and moving."
Those interested in participating in UP are asked to arrive at Jack Barry Field at 7:45 p.m. on Sunday, May 19. The performance will be photographed and filmed for promotional purposes. Participants must be at least 18 years of age and must be affiliated with MIT.
UP is generously sponsored by the Council for the Arts at MIT, The Center for Art, Science & Technology, and the National Science Foundation. 

Check out footage from the premiere of UP below.

-Abby Abazorius, CSAIL