Mobile Mobile – An Interactive Installation

Mobile Mobile – An Interactive Installation by James Theophane

Awards: One Show [Merit], Vimeo Awards [Finalist], BIMA [Winner – Self Promotion], BIMA [3 x Finalist – Strategy, Technical Achievement, Interactive Installation]

Festival Screenings

EXIT Festival – Paris
Contemporary Art Museum of Créteil

Imagine Science Film Festival – New York
Museum of Moving Image, Manhattan 

1st Annual Vimeo Film Festival – New York
The School of Visual Arts Theater

Brief: Create a Christmas experience that actively demonstrated Lost Boys core value of collaboration. 

We took this as an opportunity to reinterpret the Christmas tree and its role as the traditional focal point for a communal space.  ‘Mobile Mobile’ is a six metre circumference interactive sculpture, and signature piece for the entrance of the Lost Boys London Brick Lane studio


Mobile Mobile upcycles fifty old agency cell phones (available after an agency-wide upgrade just two months prior).  Each phone is individually addressed by a computer to cofunction and create a choral arrangement.  Assigning each phone a tone, the mass is transformed into an aural form that appears to come alive, shimmering and flirting for onlookers.

To add a little xmas spice to the mix, anyone can visit the online live stream and serenade bystanders by playing the installation live:

You can also activate the installation by sending a Tweet or visit the installation and play it in person using Microsoft Surface. 

Reacting to a tweet

Making the installation

Being played live by anonymous

Being played on a Microsoft Surface table

Behind the scenes project site

Credits and acknowledgments
Mobile Mobile is a product of hard work, mucking in and collaboration. There was blood from the LBi COO, also a qualified carpenter.  Sweat from their Creative Teams: set design, build and animation.  And tears from the IT Department, who not only made the phones do things they never should, but also hit upon the score.  “Carol of the Bells” (also known as the “Ukrainian Bell Carol”) is a choral miniature work originally composed by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych.  The mobile score was arranged by a classically trained musician and pianist from Finance. 

Good Cause: One of the largest problems facing the developing world is a lack of trained physicians. MoCa, is a health screening system for developing countries using mobile (cell)phones and open source technologies. See

Concept: James Théophane
Promo Director – Yanni Kronenberg
Design: Bobby Rayit, Jasmine Hays, Pete Talbot, Filipe Lima, Hannah Drury, Trevor Thomas, 
Julian Cross  
Programming: Oliver Dewdney, Keith Newton, Adrian Le Grand
Build: Mike Mulligan, Marcus McDonnell  
Streaming: Jon Russell
Score Arrangement: Vicki Simms
Production/Editing: Peter King (Agenda Collective)

Special thanks to Magnus Larsson for all his help and inspiration

About The Technology We Usedby Oliver Dewdney
The plan was to make 50 mobiles to each play a different note of a Christmas carol, and flash in time. We set up a test mobile phone – an HTC Touch – to connect to a wifi access point whilst being powered by a charger.

We ‘ping’ed the IP address of the phone for two days to verify that it would remain contactable. The phone did get a tiny bit warm, but it worked. We noticed that the ping time changed significantly between different power modes on the wifi of the mobile – from 100ms down to about 2ms on ‘performance’.

The plan was to write a small program that ran on the phone that understood a small set on instructions and have a controller running on a PC sending the commands. The basic list of commands was: light on/off, change colour ‘wash’ and beep.

The first challenge was turning the backlight off – WinMobile is a multitasking OS running WindowsCE as the kernel. The power management subsystem allows you to suggest power settings, but the OS takes into account all the running programs needs.

Turning the backlight fully off proved problematic in the project timescales (a matter of days). Next was beeping. The PC has always had a speaker that could beep – it was connected to the chip that controlled the keyboard – so has had a corresponding function e.g. in windows the MessageBeep function.

WindowsCE was designed for a range of platforms and embedded controllers and it looks like beep was not a core function. Luckily the Microsoft developers included some sample code on how to implement a MIDI sound system expecting hardware manufacturers to license third party full musical instrument libraries. It looks like the manufacturers kept with the simple sine wave sample code implementation.  This was good enough for our mobile phone beeping musical rendition.

The program on the phone was written in Microsoft .Net C# and consisted of two parts: one registering with a web service – logging the fact that it was still alive and its current IP address, and two a UDP listener – listening for commands from the controller over the network.

The controller was written to read the midi file of the Carol and send the individual notes to individual phones at the right time. Using UDP instead of TCP and the ‘performance’ setting on the phone meant that the commands arrived promptly on the phones.

work @ Lost Boys

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