Google uses old arcade buttons to create a stunning interactive display

Old hardware meets new software to create impressive light display.


Published Jun 6, 2016   Updated May 26, 2021, 4:02 pm CDT

Google created an interactive lighting display out of 5,880 arcade buttons in its New York City office. What makes the display unique is the combination of analog lighting (physical switches) with software that allows it to respond to touch gestures. The display will react to both single and multi-touch gestures from any number of people at a given time. Each of the small arcade buttons has a color-changing LED inside, which switch colors when acted upon. 

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The display was created using modular components so its size and shape can be changed at any time. The LEDs, which cycle through different Google typefaces, were arranged on a 140×42 canvas at the company’s 8th Avenue office.

Google Creative Lab

Analog switches are particularly difficult to program when compared to digital, so Google created open-source code to allow builders to use analog components where each pixel is an interactive element. 

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The software is called anypixel.js, a tool that makes it possible to create interactive displays out of anything “touchable, toggleable, flippable, or switchable.” Google’s Creative Lab website says builders can use a wall of light switches, lightboxes or even balloons with anypixel.js to create their own interactive display.

Anypixel.js can be found and used on Github. Google has also provided a list of hardware materials used in the arcade button light wall for those hoping to make their own.

The lobby of Google’s 8th Avenue New York City office is open to the public, so you might try to get your eyes and hands on it if you are in the area. Everyone else who knows how to draw on an HTML canvas element can start making their own crazy displays with anypixel.js and whatever hardware they have lying around.

H/T Co.Design

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*First Published: Jun 6, 2016, 1:29 pm CDT