Author

Yumiko Kodama

Environmental Sculptor, Lighting Designer/LED Artist
Creator of lighting for the Nagano Olympics’ award ceremonies
Creator of Hokusai’s Red
Mt. Fuji for the Chunichi Shimbun Pavilion at Expo 2005 Aichi.

Also created the Visible Light Communication Monument for the Beijing Olympics, and is currently researching “Olympic IT Strategies” at the National Institute of Informatics.

Since I hated math when I was a kid, I went to an art college and became an art teacher. The thing is, science is cool. I love it!

One day, I was looking at a green printed board and realized the beauty in those geometric designs created by all the embedded components.

I was amazed at how all those unattractive parts could be integrated into so many wonderful creations. Recently, printed circuit boards have become even cuter - especially that pink KURUMI. The moment I saw KURUMI, I blurted out, “Oh, so kawaii!” I am so excited about learning more, as we start our journey into the new world of IT art.

I want to start out by making a thermometer using LED visible light communication (VLC for short).


What is an "LED" anyways?

"LED" is the abbreviation for "light-emitting diode" and a diode is a semiconductor, or something that conducts electricity. An LED lights up when applied with voltage.

Red LEDs were developed in the ‘60s, but blue LEDs were much more difficult to achieve. Did you know that the blue light-emitting diode was developed by a Japanese scientist in the ‘90s, and that he received a Nobel Prize in 2014?

Now that we have red, green and blue light, the three primary colors, we can paint the town in a rainbow of hues without using colored cellophane. LED elements emit various colors based on the materials involved, but with red, green and blue light, that trio of primary colors, we can produce a myriad of hues!

And, in the late ‘90s, a robotics student in the U.S. named George Mueller combined the three primary colors using his computer and digitally produced 16,700,000 color halftones. Just by mixing red, blue and green light, you can create white light! But LED light only travels in one straight direction, so it’s hard to overlap rays of LED light.

So, George Mueller came up with the idea of controlling the light with a computer. This enabled us to create lots of colors easily, and “paint” the town. And even better is that LEDs don’t emit much heat, unlike regular lights. This is great for the environment, as it helps us reduce CO2 emissions - a key concern for anyone worried about this earth!

In 2005, a bright red, 40-meter Mt. Fuji capped with pure white snow appeared at the EXPO in Aichi, near Nagoya. In fact, George and I actually had a hand in this! At the time, Japan didn’t have the technology to produce white light with LEDs. So George and I took on the project and created a luminous rendition of artist Hokusai’s Red Mt. Fuji. I came up with the image after enjoying “Mt. Fuji ice cream” at a wedding. The image of pure white snow capping a tall peak makes any mountain look like Mt. Fuji.

Continue on to learn about What is Visible Light Communication?