The Physical Pixel Project was inspired by a vision for computer animation in sculptural forms beyond computer screens and video projection. Research was conducted at the MIT Media Laboratory with the partial support of the Jacob K. Javitt's Fellowship Program. The resulting prototypes were exhibited at SIGGRAPH'99 and the L'Oreal Art and Science of Color Prize award ceremony in Paris, France (2000).
Several functional prototypes were created as part of the project: The Digital Palette (1999), Color Anime (1999) and Peano (2000). The Digital Palette, developed with the engineering support of Steven Gray, is a handheld device for the remote control of digital light. The 'palette' enables an artist to mix colors of light, create sequences of colored light, and specify the color of physical pixels. Color Anime, developed in collaboration with Scott Snibbe and Paul Pham, is a Java applet for animated color generation that communicates with sculptural display devices. Peano is a system of modular building blocks that connected together in a sculptural display of colored light.
Nearly every aspect of these physical pixels were custom-designed, including the connectors (K. Heaton and A. Jacobs), the firmware (Steve Gray) and the interface software (Paul Pham). Unfortunately, the prototypes and code base from The Physical Pixel Project are antiquated and will no longer function without restoration.
Heaton received a Master of Science from the MIT Media Laboratory in May 2000. A .pdf form of Heaton's thesis, Physical Pixels, is available here.