I recently began work with an interactive NYC-based artist (Anoine Catala) on a pneumatically-activated display. I think it’s an unusual but exciting concept. For an example see Chris Harrison’s research (http://www.chrisharrison.net/index.php/Research/PneumaticDisplays).
At this early stage we have scoped out most of the materials for the design, but have yet to do any assembly or testing. A 120V Coleman air mattress pump will serve as both an air vacuum and pump. By connecting both ends of the pump (the inflate and deflate ends) to a directional control valve, it will be possible to deliver alternating bursts of positive and negative air pressure to a chamber. The three main components of the project are therefore the pump, the control valve and the air chamber. The air chamber will be constructed completely out of 1/8″ acrylic. On one side of the chamber a defined pattern will be cut out and a piece of latex stretched across.
By operating the control valve it will be possible to fill the air chamber and thus bring the shape cut into the acrylic into relief. The latex will expand and contract in that shape. To add to the effect, a projector will project an image or video onto that shape. The design challenges I’m looking at now are: how to mate dissimilar valve sizes and shapes of the pump, the valve and the chamber; how to design the system to ensure that the solenoid valve does not overheat; and how to code an Arduino microcontroller to operate the valve in a pre-defined sequence. More on this soon….