What’s in Development By Think Radio

Think Radio has been developing a “core technology”, of which the wireless ambient and immersive lighting is the first example.

The reason for the repeated emphasis on radio is that the radio protocol is the fundamental key to a stunning range of new possibilities in live event technology.
Bluetooth can’t do it.
WiFi can’t do it.
Nor can any of the existing well-known radio protocols.

What’s required is a radio system that can handle 1-to-very-many connections, i.e. each device can not only receive data broadcast from control, but that control is aware of every device, can differentiate each device, and data can pass through an encrypted channel to and from each device. Only with this unique Think Radio radio-protocol can each LightShip (or wristband) automatically register on the network and be assigned some DMX channels, whilst sustaining a no-lag, very-high-bandwidth (up to 4 universes, and a full uncompromised DMX refresh rate) flow of lighting data.

In addition, the personal wristband type devices have a built-in audience interaction system, to read button presses (LightShips have exactly the same system available, if your event is better-suited to a ‘block’ style device).

Finally, encryption should be mentioned. Many other manufacturer’s wireless lighting products lack protection against malicious attempts to disrupt live events (such as by sending unauthorised lighting data to your devices), they may even lack protection against interference from another running wireless system nearby. Think Radio’s radio-protocol protects against both.

When a Think Radio device receives a radio packet, it first checks that it is authentic AND that it comes from the intended sender. In addition, a very sophisticated frequency-hopping algorithm ensures that no co-interference will occur with other nearby radio systems
(regardless of if they are Think Radio systems or not).

So, now, onto the roadmap of what Think Radio will be releasing:

Stage 1

This is to make LightShips available to hire.
Every hire includes:

  1. A complete set of lightships, supplied fully charged and with the latest firmware upgrades.
  2. A set of chargers and charging cables.
  3. The base-station and cables to support a direct DMX connection and DMX over USB.
  4. A laptop with latest versions of all the lighting control software we recommend, and laptop charger.
    5, A portable lighting desk for those that would prefer to use a hardware controller.
  5. Full demonstration, instructions and support if you encounter any issues.
Stage 1b

Dreamachine, not really a stage, but Think Radio will also make a version of the Brion Gysin Dreamachine available to buy.
It’s a Bluetooth Mesh based version of LightShip, controlled direct from an iOS/Android phone app, plus a reproduction of the original paper Dreamachine cylinder. This will be the first available-to-buy version of LightShip.

Lightships can be directly controlled from your Android or iPhone, set to any brightness, and any colour, and organised into groups. Bluetooth cannot offer the instantaneous and fast-changing lighting control of large numbers of devices the way that DMX can, so, for high-performance usage, DMX is best. But, for convenience, and in simple, relatively unchanging or only slowly changing applications, sometimes it’s useful to just use your phone.

As a little retro treat, Think Radio is selling single LightShip devices together with Brion Gysin’s ‘Dreamachine’. The Dreamachine was a small sensation in its day, “the first piece of art to be viewed with your eyes closed”.
It’s a perforated paper ‘lantern’ that could be placed on a record turntable, and a domestic lightbulb suspended inside (no wireless or LED lighting in that era!), and the viewers experienced ‘psychedelic’ lighting patterns projected onto their closed eyes. So why not try the Dreamachine experience for yourself?

Stage 2 Lighting Rig in a Lunchbox, AVAILABLE FOR SALE.

The reason for delaying this stage is twofold.
Firstly the current worldwide shortages of microprocessors.
Secondly to fully resolve any design issues that might arise in Stage 1.

Think Radio’s promise is free firmware upgrades forever. You will always be able to install the latest version of the firmware available for your hardware.

Stage 3 MaxMSP and VST Plug-ins

Think Radio has a working MaxMSP that extracts note pitches in real-time, and maps them to colours(notes)/hues(octaves)/intensities(loudness). The effect is quite magical, requiring no set-up, and producing delightful immersive lighting effects. However, for really precise creative control, each instrument/audio-source needs to be handled separately, so the the next stage is to do this through DAW’s.

For any creatives that use a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), Think Radio will shortly have a no-configuration-required VST plug-in, or plug-ins, that completely automate the process of building a lightshow, no lighting engineer required!

Either a single instance of the VST can be dropped into the master output, and will perform the entire task of generating lighting effects from your audio, or, for maximum creative control, a VST can be dropped into each source channel, and then all sources combined into a master output. Its lighting-mixing done like audio mixing!

Stage 4 Wristbands

So that was LightShip, the pocket-sized device.What about the wristband-sized device?
That’s PalmPirate.
It’s almost the same thing, except much smaller and much lighter, and gives your audience an even more intense sense of connection to your event.
Nothing beats the feel of a crowd, of humans moving, dancing, enjoying, living. PalmPirate makes that into visible art. Visible to the entire audience no matter where they stand or sit. And, importantly, makes the audience visible to the performers.

AND PalmPirate has one, utterly huge, extra. It’s positional.

PalmPirate supports DMX in the usual way. It ALSO, with the most advanced Think Radio base-station, supports POSITIONAL light mapping.

Each PalmPirate is able, from the radio signals it receives, to continuously calculate its position.

Imagine the audience area as a grid. If a person (wearing a PalmPirate) wanders into a particular grid position, then their device lights up appropriately to the colour assigned to that position. Wander somewhere else, the PalmPirate keeps recalculating, displaying the correct colour all the way.

This makes it possible to overlay patterns onto the audience (logos, moving patterns, whatever), through the normal DMX control mechanism. The only difference is now you’re assigning colours to LOCATIONS, instead of lights.

You’ve turned the audience into a GIANT LED MATRIX.

Stage 5 Audience feedback

Where the Think radio system is provisioned as one-device-per-audience-member, the in-built audience feedback system is a delightful further addition. Audience feedback systems are nothing new, and have been used to gain live-audience feedback, particularly in television and product marketing. Providing them as an extension of live event lighting is new, and provides new creative opportunities for engaging your audience.

Stage 6 Live Light & Musical Interaction

The ultimate form of audience feedback is live interaction. Imagine your audience being able to influence and control the light show by interacting with it, either through button presses, dial-twists, or for the ultimate ease of use through the built-in accelerometer that can recognise any sort of physical movement.

BEYOND THAT, even being able to interact with the music, perhaps adding their own beat. Audience drum solo anyone?

Stage 7 Smartwatch

The ultimate souvenir, a special version of the PalmPirate that is also a smartwatch. Available either as an upsell, or on a complimentary basis for highly valued guests.

Think Radio does gadgets.

Think Radio is all about the Internet of Things (IoT).
Things for live events (when we can).
Things for livestreaming (when we can’t).
Things like smartwatches (but only a bit like them).
Things that you are given for free (but which an event sponsor pays for).

Think Radio is about audience interaction through smartwatch-like devices that they are given at live (or livestreamed) events,
and about professional stage lighting for live and livestreaming events, and about a continuing relationship with the sponsor after an event.

Think Radio is an early-stage start-up technology company, looking to develop a workers-co-operative structure rather than the classic investment for equity model.