A Planetarium with Sense and Sensibility

Today, the more interactive the entertainment, the better—there’s an incomparable stimulant when a user’s actions affect the plot unfolding in front of his or her eyes. This principle drove a group of students at Kutztown University to make their campus planetarium interactive. “It is definitely a more meaningful experience when you can actually have a part in the show rather than just sitting back and watching,” explained Nate Renninger, a designer of the project.

“In simple terms, our project is a visualizer that uses multiple instruments, one being Twitter, to manipulate the appearance of an animation [projected onto the Planetarium’s ceiling]. This project was the result of a pitch our group had during the Interdisciplinary Team Project class taught by the brilliant Professor Josh Miller. We had a lot of motivation to do this because we wanted to create a way for each student to interact with the Planetarium like never before.”

The four pupils, Nate Renninger, Brandon Stack, Nicole Cresse, and Michael Pandel, created their responsive animation using Processing, Beads (for the music), and Temboo, particularly our Twitter Choreos. The audio came from different instruments and was digitized with an audio interface box. Adobe After Effects was used to create the array of images that played during the “mood” transitions of the exhibit.

These moods, ranging from “fun” to “angry,” were dictated by spectators’ Tweets, and were reflected in the facial expression and color of the animation on the ceiling. “There are so many cool things that you can do using the API from a social media platform. I’m very happy that we were able to interact with Twitter this way. The possibilities are endless,” Renninger said.

“We hope that this will inspire future experimentation with the Kutztown University Planetarium.”

We love seeing interactive projects that really engage an audience (and we think planetariums are cool, too)! If you are working on anything that challenges convention, send us an email to and you could be our next featured project.