'Illuminating Vibrations' - the origin of the Halo Harp

As part of the International Year of Light, 2015

The Halo Harp was born as collaborative project between researchers at the University of Glasgow, and staff and students at the Glasgow School of Art, with a project to design a laser based musical instrument to encourage the study of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) through demonstration of light based technologies, for the International Year of Light celebrations, in 2015. The IYOL was a global initiative to highlight to the citizens of the world the importance of light and optical technologies in their lives, for their futures, and for the development of society. It was a unique opportunity to inspire, educate, and connect on a global scale.

The Halo Harp concept was the brainchild of Product design engineering students Kelsey Kordakis, Joshua Ward, Chi Wai Cho, Laura Morrison, under the supervision of Dr. Aileen Biagi, Mr. Craig Lynn, Dr. Giles Hammond, Mr. Russell Jones, Dr. Alan Cumming.

Early Concepts

The early design process encompassed concept generation, and numerous laser instrument concepts were evaluated, a few of which are shown below:

Wing Harp

The wing harp is essentially a portable laser harp, which although uses old technology, is a completely new musical instrument worn and played on your arm.

Halo Harp

The Halo Harp is a completely new instrument intended for performing musicians. It uses the fact that lasers do not negatively interfere with one another, meaning the intersection points can be programmed to produce either more notes in a scale or chords.

Laser Piano

The laser piano is a fundamental adaptation of the standard grand piano. It is played in the same way, only the mechanism behind each sound is created via software programmed to translate signals from each laser as it's broken by the same hammer that normally strikes the strings.


After concept choice of the Halo Harp, a basic conceptual prototypes were constructed, to visualise the aesthetics and test the functionality and practical ability of the concept:


First prototype

Team presentation of the concept and prototype