One year ago, artist Eyal Gever announced a project unlike anything that had ever been done before: he planned to take the sound waves from a recording of laughter and turn them, using his own self-developed software, into a 3D printed sculpture. He’s not the first to turn sound waves into 3D printed art, but one factor set Gever’s project apart from all other art that’s ever been created: the sculpture would be 3D printed in space.
Gever conceived of the project after being contacted by Made In Space, creator of outer space’s first 3D printer and the subsequent Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), a permanent fixture on the International Space Station. While the AMF was built so that astronauts could fabricate their own tools and supplies on the ISS rather than having to wait for shipments from Earth, it’s only natural that its creators would want to do some fun things with it as well – like 3D printing the Internet from space, for example, or commissioning the first artwork to be created in zero gravity.
Gever invited the public to be part of his project, which he called #Laugh, by launching an app in December that would record users’ laughter and turn the sound waves into digital “laugh stars” that other users could see. The laugh star that received the most likes throughout the month of December would be selected for 3D printing on the ISS.
According to Made In Space, more than 100,000 people submitted laugh stars for consideration through the app. The winner was Naughtia Jane Stanko of Las Vegas, Nevada, whose laugh star was beamed up in 3D file format to the ISS and 3D printed in zero gravity on Friday. It was then released into orbit.
“We live in epic times, where continuous disruption and rapid change exists against a backdrop of extremely volatile cultural shifts constantly challenging our human conscience,” said Gever. “A Laugh Star floating in space, above all our heads, is my attempt to create a contemporary metaphor for the hanging ‘Sword Of Damocles,’ a reminder that the beauty of human-life is so fragile.”
An observer unfamiliar with the project (a future space traveler, perhaps, or an extraterrestrial?) who came upon the orbiting laugh star in space would undoubtedly have lots of questions, such as “what is it?” The abstract piece could be said to resemble several things – a flower, a sun, a droplet of liquid captured at the moment it hits a hard surface. If you’re feeling particularly hungry, the frosty-looking unpainted print released from the ISS could even resemble an exploded donut, which I suspect would draw a new laugh from our theoretical future space traveler. Laughter tends to beget laughter – even across the distance between Earth and space.
“It’s important for the world to see that technology and art are not independent of one another,” said Andrew Rush, President and CEO of Made In Space. “We’ve enjoyed being a part of this project, and hope that it communicates to the world that innovation and creativity are the driving forces behind humanity’s future in space.”
Stanko’s laugh star has also been 3D printed on Earth, with Stratasys printing a particularly striking rainbow-colored version. Gever and Jason Dunn, Made In Space founder and Chief Technology Officer, will give a presentation about the project on March 13 at the South by Southwest festival, which will be taking place from March 10 to 19 in Austin, Texas. You can learn more about the presentation here.