The Umbrella Project (UP) is a large-scape participatory experiment in which hundreds of participants light up the night’s sky.

The participants use the color-changing umbrellas to create images that are projected in real time on a large screen, and use this feedback along with high-level human instructions to cause the image to change. UP gives a group of untrained people umbrellas and 60 minutes to create something beautiful and moving.

The experiment is an exploration of the power of groups and the idea that groups are more capable than the sum of their parts. This project is the result of our second collaboration with Pilobolus. It was performed at PopTech in October 2012 and at MIT in May 2013. The roots of the project are in the research on collaborative decision making for robots at MIT. The Umbrella Project allows the exploration of theories on collaboration in the context of crowds and enables the extraction of hypotheses for future biologically-grounded approaches to robot control.