Walk on the Sun

Walk on the Sun and Hear it as Music!

“Walk on the Sun” is an engaging new interactive space science exhibit which facilitates perception of scientific data and imagery through music and movement. Since 1992, Design Rhythmics Sonification Research Lab has worked on numerous scientific projects to represent data through the cognitively rich domain of music. Over the past three years, we received two NASA grants for our innovative approach using image sonification to communicate the content of images from the STEREO space mission. We are pleased to announce that “Walk on the Sun” is now available for purchase.Walk on the Sun at the TedXNASA event in Newport News, Va

“Walk on the Sun” allows visitors to explore over one million images of the Sun, the Corona, and the solar winds from 8 cameras from the twin NASA STEREO spacecraft through movement and music. In addition, images of nebula and galaxies from NASA's Hubble and Chandra telescopes may also be selected for viewing, hearing and exploring.

Using visually tracked body movements, visitors (like the boy in the image below right from a recent visit to the Miami Science Museum) select pixels in the images as they move over the images. The pixels are translated simultaneously into musical notes so the explorer can comprehend the scientific information contained in the images via the auditory and musical channels of the human brain, substantially increasing accessibility to those who are blind and visually impaired. The different camera and image directories are selected via electronic MIDI keyboards or pads within the exhibit. Graphic signs provide visitors a way to learn about the solar science and the art and science of sonification behind the image music.

Walk on the Sun on tour at the Miami Science MuseumHow Can An Image Be Perceived as Music - How Does It Work?

The colors and textures of images can be perceived through the colors and textures of music. The sonification software translates pixel brightness into pitch and pixel color into different musical instruments. When you step on a bright blue area, you hear a high note played on a guitar. When you move to a dark blue area, you hear a low pitch played on the guitar. Black, gray and white colors are produced using a piano sound. All together 9 instruments represent colors and 50 notes out of a Spanish-Gypsy scale represent brightness. The location in the image is translated into the panning location of the resulting sound.

Perceive Movies as Music!

The image directories that contain solar images from different cameras can be played back as if they were movies. During playback, each image is translated into a chord of music representing a portion of the image. For some types of solar images we use a virtual audio line down the middle of the Sun or close to the Sun (in the case of the solar wind images), whose points are used to produce a chord of polyphonic music. For the corona images, we use a virtual audio circle whose points along that geometric structure produce a chord of polyphonic music. Through this technology, both the sighted and the blind can hear the Sun rotate, locate hot spots, and recognize change in the solar winds as Coronal Mass Ejections are flung out into space.

Installed, Tested and Wheelchair Friendly

The first permanent exhibit was installed in March 2009 at the new McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, New Hampshire, USA (see the top image) where many visitors cite it as their favorite. It has also been noted as being wheel chair friendly and fun for all. 

Footprint, Cost, and Opening Performance EventWalk on the Sun image from the TedXNasa event held in December in Newport News, Va

The installed exhibit footprint is approximately 10 feet wide by 10 feet deep x 12 to 15 feet high. It can be made smaller and shorter or larger and taller as your space, needs and wishes dictate. Please contact us for prices. DRSRL will also consider creating customized installations such as for entrance halls, visitor lobbies, or applications of our many sonification designs to other projects, the cost of which will vary of course. An image of the exhibit as it would be delivered in its standard form is shown on the left.



Keep Up to Date as Missions Unfold

We envision “Walk on the Sun” as a unique perceptual experience delivery vehicle where new mission imagery can be added as data becomes available and delivered as part of a maintenance and upgrade service at reasonable cost. For instance, Science of a Sphere movies can be presented within the framework of the exhibit, complementing existing installations of SOS, and thereby making them more accessible to the blind in the process.








Three Exhibits in One or Three Separate Exhibits - All Based on the Same Underlying Technology


In addition to presenting solar images, the exhibit can be used to experience paintings and visual arts. Potentially a separate exhibit in itself, Walk on the Sun comes loaded with original artwork of Marty and Wendy Quinn. Special directories and procedures can be setup to allow masterworks, local student’s and local artist’s works to be loaded into the exhibit and experienced as music using body movement exploration - another way to engage with local schools - and connect art with your science center, and the science, art and music of DRSRL's image sonification with your art museum.


Another potentially separate exhibit in itself, MoveMusic translates movement itself into music. DRSRL is working to utilize this new approach to enhance the perception of athletic performances at the 2016 Olympics. Explorers can select options to hear their movements as music and gain new appreciation of their own and others movements. This can open up outreach opportunities for your center to engage the martial arts and dance community using the exhibit as a performance/demonstration space. DRSRL recently hosted a “Stellar Nights” talk at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center called “Kung Fu on the Sun” that featured Marty Quinn’s Kung Fu teacher Aaron Butler moving over an 18 x 8 foot stage with imagery data projected from a height of 30 feet, creating very large images of the Sun and outer space for him to move over.

Call or Contact Us Today

We hope you will consider purchasing one or more of these unique interactive and visually impaired and wheelchair accessible exhibits for your center soon. Discounts are available to centers which purchase multiple copies of the exhibit, so that, for instance, MoveMusic and ArtMusic can be experienced separately from the Walk on the Sun imagery. We look forward to speaking with you soon.