MIT Green Building Display plugin interface
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Display 54

The MIT Green Building Display plugin interface


On April 20, 2012, MIT hackers installed a game similar to Tetris using the windows of the MIT Green Building (Building 54) as pixels. The game (named MITris) was controlled from a wooden box placed outside of the building and could be played by members of the MIT community and the public. The Green Building display was originally installed in a separate hack, displaying an American flag on the building to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

We've decided to release some of the software used to run the hack. Our goal in doing this is to inspire the world at large to create interesting games, visualizations, or just about anything. If we see something cool enough, we'll try to find a chance to run your code.

Technical Information

The display consists of 153 pixels arranged in a 9 wide by 17 tall configuration. These are all of the windows of the same size on the south side of the building. Each window contains a custom-designed power LED module which is individually addressed. All of the windows are controlled via a wireless broadcast protocol, which can drive the display at 15 frames per second in 24-bit color mode.

The game controller consisted of a wooden box with 4 lighted switches placed near the Great Sail, about 70 meters from the front of the Green Building. The output from the switches was sent over the wireless network to a computer which ran the game and generated the output for the display.

The software released here is extremely similar to what was running for the hack. The code that actually communicates with the display has been removed. The released code includes the display plugin API which allows one to write and preview a plugin which would be compatible with the actual display. The MITris game plugin as well as a simple test plugin are also included.

Installation and Usage


The included ant build script will create a jar file which can be used directly. Alternatively, a pre-built jar file with the initial release can be downloaded. An installation of Java 1.6 or higher is required to run the software.


  • JTransforms FFT library. This is needed for the audio processing code. Download the current version (we are using 2.4) as a jar file and place in the lib directory.


To run the test plugin:

java -jar d54.jar

To run the MITris plugin:

java -jar d54.jar

The game opens up a socket on port 12345 to accept user commands. The real controller would connect to this socket and send the button presses to the game as the characters U, D, R, and L. This plugin certainly wasn't designed to take local input from the keyboard, but if you want to play locally, you can telnet localhost 12345 in a separate terminal and type those letters. You may have to hit Return to actually send the characters, depending on your telnet client.

The jar file can be built from the Ant build.xml using the build.jar target. If you want to run the code without building the jar, keep in mind that the main method is actually in PluginRunner (the plugin class name is an argument), so you need to run:

java <plugin-class-name>

Included plugins which you can run:

  • (waving flag)
  • (audio visualization)
  • (audio visualization)
  • (contributed by a MIT EAPS staff member)
  • (contributed by kxnz)
  • (contributed by kxnz)

Writing plugins

To create your own plugin, you need to extend the DisplayPlugin class in The only method that needs to be implemented is void loop() which will be called every frame to draw the display. To be compatible with the PluginRunner main class in the jar file, you must also define a constructor of the form YourPlugin(Display2D display, double framerate).

In your loop method, you should call getDisplay() to grab a reference to the Display2D object, and then getGraphics() to get a java.awt.Graphics2D to draw on or the setPixel methods to modify the image data directly.

To run a custom plugin:

java -jar d54.jar -cp <your .class file directory> your.pkg.YourPlugin

Other hints

By default, the PluginRunner creates a GBDisplay, which is a Display2D with the dimensions of the Green Building. You can create your own display with a different number of pixels as well as a different pixel aspect ratio by changing the arguments to the Display2D constructor. This might require modifying PluginRunner (there is also a bare-bones launcher written in

If you wanted to display the output of your plugin on something other than the preview window, you can implement a new DisplayListener to do that. The DisplayListener is notified every time the display is updated and reads the updated image from the getBufferedImage() method in Display2D. We use another DisplayListener to encode the image to be wirelessly broadcast to the real display on the Green Building.

We recently added some code for audio visualizations. There are two examples: VUMeterPlugin and SpectrographPlugin. These use the AudioProcessor class to retrieve audio data from your line in or microphone.


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