Bloxels by Jinha Lee

Bloxels are a combination of blocks and pixels. Created by electrical engineer Jinha Lee as his senior thesis for the University of Tokyo, this new technology sought to answer an interesting question: “What if pixels escaped the monitor screen and became controllable by people?” Returning to an archetypal shape, Jinha Lee encapsulated the pixel in a building block. Bloxel brings to life the designer’s aesthetic philosophy, which centers around the familiarity of shapes: “When appreciating works of art, people do not have to focus intentionally, because the work is perceived as visual shapes, through intuition.”

Bloxels. Designed by Jinha Lee.

Jinha Lee translated this reductive approach to the atomic level by focusing on pixels, “the fundamental components of graphical representation.” The resulting Bloxels are translucent cubes that glow in color based on transmitted data from a neighboring Bloxel. Bloxels receive information from the cube beneath them through infrared high-speed flickers carrying color data. Users can pile up Bloxels however they like, creating complex color displays—what Jinha Lee terms “volumetric pixels.” Hundreds of Bloxels can be married to one another, creating a three-dimensional representation of the building blocks of color. Eventually, the Bloxels become something in and of themselves, attaining a shape and meaning not associated with any underlying mode of interpretation.





Each Bloxel has two full-color LEDs for display purposes, nine infrared LEDs that transmit data, a photo detector, a battery, and a micro-controller. The system even works when the Bloxels that send/receive information are not completely in contact with each other. Initially intended as a groundbreaking display technology, Bloxels are quickly morphing into much more. At the moment, designer Jinha Lee is experimenting with possible uses for his modular light cubes, including their use as educational tools. As they stand right now, Bloxels are a creative lighting source with tactile appeal. While this is an oversimplification of the technology, their visual appeal cannot be denied: they are like the adult version of Lite Brite, substituting glowing cubes for pegs.

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