Work done at The Exploratorium in collaboration with the Riedel-Kruse Laboratory with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

DeLIGHTful – Dancing with Living Microbes is an experimental museum installation that bridges the human and the microscopic world, enabling microbes and humans to meet and interact with each other in their respective realms and scales. Using light as the medium of interaction, the DeLIGHTful exhibit shrinks visitors’ silhouettes into a microscope where the microbe, Euglena gracilis, live. Since Euglena are phototactic, as visitors move in front of the exhibit, the Euglena cells move in response, allowing microbes and humans to interact across scales. In turn, the live image of the Euglena and the human silhouettes in the microscope are magnified onto a life-size screen in front of the visitors to close the microbe-human interaction loop. Visitors can also look through the microscope’s eyepiece to watch their (human) friends ‘dance’ with the Euglena on the microscopic stage.   

This cross-scale interaction is achieved through the integration of wet-ware, software, and hardware. A depth camera is used to detect and track visitors’ movements in a demarcated interaction area in front of the exhibit. A pico projector projects the silhouettes of the detected human forms through conventional optics to a custom-built microfluidic chip, which houses the Euglena. The microfluidic chip sits between the pico projector and a scientific camera, which images the Euglena as well as the light projection of the human silhouettes. The live video feed is displayed back to the human-scale world on a large screen in front of the visitors using the exhibit. The camera’s field of view and the pico projector’s field of projection are pre-aligned and scaled according to the magnifications of the optical system and the display resolution. This setup allows high-dimensional optical input to and output from the microscopic world, jumping three size-scale orders of magnitude. The entire setup sits in a transparent vitrine to allow for visual inspection by the curious visitor.
 

 

Credits

  • Cory Barr
  • Joyce Ma
  • Peter Taylor
  • Amy Lam
  • Seung Ah Lee
  • Ingmar Riedel-Kruse