Rio de Janeiro’s fourth annual ArtRio Festival overtook Pier Mauá last week. Fifty thousand visitors wandered through over 100 different galleries, taking in world-renowned works right alongside pieces from up-and-coming names.

True to Brazil’s flair for the evocative, however, festivalgoers could not only consume art, but create it themselves – designing their very own Heineken bottle by waving their hands in the air.

A woman creates her own Heineken bottle.

When Heineken approached Eduardo Abdou’s Interactive Lab about building out a dynamic experience for the festival, his mind immediately leapt to Leap Motion.

“I’m a programmer and I’m always looking for new technologies,” Eduardo told us. “We were invited to join a brainstorming to help with activation ideas for this festival. Heineken wanted something involving art and technology. I have used the Leap Motion Controller for a while, but this was the first opportunity to develop something challenging with it.”

The Abdou Interactive team executed the project in just a month – combining Arduino, Unity3D, and Leap Motion to control stepper motors, relays and solenoids, placing artistic reign directly into the hands of the user.

In addition to the Arduino, Eduardo used Unity for interaction implementation. “I chose Unity because we’ve already done a few projects with it, and because I am very familiar with C#. It was not so difficult to implement. It reads the palm position and the fingers’ angle related to the Z axis on every frame. By using a thread in parallel, this data is sent to the Arduino via serial communication.”

The installation was a huge success, seeing the creation of over 1,200 bottles over the span of 5 days by festivalgoers of all ages – creating memorable souvenirs that they could bring home. “I believe what made this project engaging was precisely the sensitivity and accuracy of the sensor,” Eduardo says. “People were impressed that they were able to operate the machine without touching any buttons or physical control.”

The Heineken-bottle-painting art installation. Several Heineken bottles painted with hand gestures in the air. The Heineken installation at night.