A Lasting Impression


You’ve seen her enigmatic smile. It allures, engages, and seems to interact with those standing before her. The Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci’s sixteenth-century masterpiece, appears more alive than any other portrait. In fact, some believe that by integrating elements of anatomy, chemistry, and optics into his artistic process, Leonardo da Vinci created the first augmented reality experience centuries before the concept existed.

While da Vinci is revered for his discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, geology, and hydrodynamics, his genius is perhaps most notable in his talent for merging disciplines—brilliantly combining biology, physics, chemistry, and art. In doing so, he was able to invent technologies that have forever changed humanity.

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Credit: Wikimedia

In the Mona Lisa, his method of layering sensory information creates an interactive, dynamic portrait. He accomplished this by carefully selecting his materials, choosing a primer coat of lead white to reflect light through translucent top layers to create an impression of depth and three-dimensionality.

He also produced an interactive experience by including ultra-fine lines at the corners of the Mona Lisa’s mouth. Thanks to the way the retina processes images, the lines form a slight downturn if we look directly at them. If we look away, however, our peripheral vision blends these lines and we see the hint of a smile. The result is an ever-changing expression that seems to respond to our glance, and it lingers in our minds.

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In this issue of Distributed Energy, we honor the confluence of creativity, science, and technology with a collection of stories about the future of both established and emerging technologies. In what is perhaps our most forward-looking issue to date, we celebrate extraordinary inventions that exemplify the intersection of art and science—technologies that streamline power generation and distribution, making our world a more energy-efficient one.

In “Augmented Reality”, we explore the potential of a cutting-edge technology and its many applications in manufacturing and maintenance. We examine the ways in which AR can optimize efficiency by layering computer generated graphics, images, and text to enhance reality. Today, workers wearing AR glasses can project assembly, repair, or maintenance instructions on a piece of machinery and complete complicated tasks without having to stop to check manuals. AR technology has the potential to be a game-changer for the power industry, and we’re thrilled to be at the forefront of it.

Small Systems, Big Impact” examines the remarkable fusion of energy production, cooling, and heating technology within today’s CHP systems. What was once a technology adopted by large industrial facilities is now increasingly popular in smaller-scale applications. In fact, as facility space becomes more valuable and end-users recognize the potential efficiency gains, these elegantly packaged systems with streamlined footprints have become the gold standard as a cost-effective, all-in-one solution.

In “The Evolution of Enclosures”, we observe the ways in which environmental concerns and population density are influencing the design of enclosures. Not only are they are becoming increasingly important for sound mitigation in urban areas, but they are increasingly necessary for protecting equipment in extreme environments. From high-tech insulation, customized barrier walls for sound mitigation, equipment protection, and acoustic blankets for vibrational dampening, we observe the many enclosure design techniques that combine art and science in innovative ways.

Today, the power industry finds itself positioned to merge scien­tific understanding and creative inspiration as it develops astonishing new technologies. Never before has the sector been so poised to innovate. And perhaps we should take a lesson from da Vinci’s notebook—from his flying machines and technical masterpieces—as we create market-disrupting technologies that leave a lasting impression, much like the Mona Lisa’s smile. De Bug Web

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