2018 Rayactivation


A Project for Burning Man 2018


CAD image of ray on-Playa with sunset background

Ray flying out of the sunset

What we are building, in brief, is a giant, interactive, illuminated Cownose Ray (Rhinoptera bonasus) that will fly over the heads of participants as it travels across the Playa night sky.

This year’s project aims to take lessons and techniques learned over the past 5 years or so and pull them all together to make a project experience that capitalizes on the strengths garnered from many varied efforts. We have developed motion and lighting control. large-scale motorized kinetic systems, conformable, illuminable fabric tension skins, build scheduling and management practices, and participant interaction techniques and strategies. All of these new skills have been hard-won and illuminating and we are greatly looking forward to taking all of the lessons learned so far, applying them to this project synthesis, and learning a whole host of new things.

The New England Aquarium here in Boston just happens to have a ray touch tank with approx. 50 rays in it. A fantastic place to go and observe their natural swimming motions at my leisure in a superbly visible environment. Here is a video showing the ray’s wing motion that we are looking to emulate:


So, it turns out that rays DO actually change color via chromophores in their skin. So, our internally illuminated spandex covering IS realistic…

Here is a video of our first scaled-down, prototype wing actuator in motion:


and here is our working model for the support backbone and wing actuators:

Manta ray support background and wing structure

Support backbone and wing structure

Here is what you will be able to recline upon whilst observing the heavens and the sky mantas overhead.

Wave-like Seating

Finished project during the day. (Image Credit: Anthony Nicolaides)

Completed Ray swimming through the night skies at Burning Man 2018! THANKS everybody!(Image Credit: Nick Lauder)

Internally-illuminated treasure chest as a generator cover.
How to hide a generator? Why, lock it up in a treasure chest of course!