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Bike Swarm - Synchronize lighting for Micromobility




MAS: Media Arts and Sciences

Faculty Supervisor:

Kent Larson

Faculty email:


Apply by:

February 10th


Researchers Thomas Sanchez (thomassl@mit.edu), Alex Berke (aberke@mit.edu)Group Admin: Carmen Panzarini(carmencp@media.mit.edu)

Project Description

The MIT Media lab, City Science Group we are exploring new types of mobilities in the City. As bikes navigate city streets after dark, they are often equipped with lights. The lights make the bikes visible to cars or other bikers, and the hazards of traffic less dangerous.Imagine that as solitary bikes come together, their lights begin to pulsate at the same cadence. The bikers may not know each other, or may only be passing each other briefly, but for the moments they are together, their lights synchronize. The effect is a visually united presence, as groups of bikes illuminate themselves with a gently pulsing, collective light source. We built this light system. We designed a synchronization protocol and algorithm, as well as physical prototypes that we fabricated and tested on our local city streets. Our system is designed for deployment in a city, yet draws inspiration from nature. When bikes are alone, their lights stay steadily on. When bikes are near each other, their lights pulsate from high to low, back to high, in synchrony. The bike lights are programmed to behave as simple oscillators, and the amplitude of their light is a function of their phase. As their phase oscillates, the amplitude of light does as well.


During the UROP researcher position, the student will gain an understanding of developing, designing and programming our synchronize lighting system for micromobility. A successful candidate will need to develop one or more fo the following task electronic and electrical design, real-time interactive design, protocol communication and implementation of the lights. Required Skills: Motivated, autonomous and results-driven. Electrical engineering, Computer Science, Architecture, urban planning or design background is recommended yet not necessary. Design, digital fabrication. Experience with interactive interfaces. Comfort with Python, C++ or Processing Programming Language.