ILuminate at Grace Hopper Conference

I recently attended the Anita Borg Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, where I had an amazing time gathering alongside the 12,000 attendees in Houston, TX. The keynotes were engaging, and I learned a lot from the many smaller sessions. I also had a great time seeing all of the opportunities at the career fair, and meeting other people with similar interests.

One of my favorite events was Friday’s performance by iLuminate, along with the talk given by the founder, Miral Kotb. iLuminate is a dance company that incorporates technology into their performances, and you might have heard of them when they competed on America’s Got Talent in 2011. The professional dancers wear dark costumes that integrate wireless light technology, which light up at different times in sync with the music to complement the choreography.

In her talk, Kotb shared her experiences creating iLuminate. Like me, she has a passion for both dance and technology. She wanted to find a way to invest her time into both technology and dance, and to make dance more accessible to people with less knowledge about it. She started working with wireless technology, arduinos, wearables, and electroluminescent wire in order to build the company into what is today.

Every part of the iLuminate technology is custom built. They started from the ground up by creating and patenting their hardware and software. Each dancer’s suit is part of a network that controls the electroluminescent wires and LEDs that light up the performer. The small computers in these outfits communicate with a central computer over iLuminate’s own 2.4 GHz network to synchronize them with the music for an incredible display.

Working with this technology introduces unique ways of thinking about computing. The hardware engineers have to collaborate with the costume designers, while keeping the dancers in mind to ensure that their creations will be both functional and moveable. The software developers have to communicate with the choreographer to ensure that what they make supports the choreographer’s vision. So many people have to work together to make these productions possible. iLuminate truly embraces the creativity in computing, and science in performing.

Photo of Victoria Gonda

Victoria is a software developer working on mobile and full stack web applications. She enjoys exchanging knowledge through conference talks and writing.