What's it like out? : Ambient Weather Display (Jan 2006)

jeevan kalanithi {} Object-Based Media {} MIT Media Lab

Many modern spaces -- particularly workspaces -- provide no windows whatsoever. It's impossible to know the weather outside or even the time of day without checking on some kind of instrument -- a wall clock or weather.com.

What's It Like Out provides an ambient, architectural indication of both the time of day and current weather. The lighting in a room automatically changes to mirror the lighting conditions outside. If it's a clear day, the lights will provide a light blue glow. If it's a rainy night, the lights will pitter-patter between dark and light gray. Transitions between weather conditions flow smoothly. The system can display clear, cloudy, partly cloudy, snow, rainy and thunderstorming day or night conditions.

What's It Like Out is a continuously-running python/isis program that controls an array of Color Kinetics DMX theater lights and updates the current weather conditions and time via automatic lookups to the National Weather Service XML feed. It currently runs in a windowless room in the Media Lab, displaying the weather in Cambridge, MA. It could, of course, be easily set to display the weather anywhere the NWS monitors, providing remote awareness of time and weather.