Visualizing Sound

July 9th, 2009

I am taking Colin Owens “Sound for Dynamic Media” class this summer and started working on a project involving the visualization of sound. We saw several interesting examples from the design field that you can find on the class website. I thought this more scientific example was pretty cool and wanted to share.

Looked at my blog for the first time in a while today. To my surprise, the basketball visualization of NBA shot location that I worked on with my brother Matt last November has received some positive attention recently including a mention on Boing Boing Gadgets. Also got a mention onVisualization Blog in an article about visualization in sports. Always great to get feedback, especially when it is positive!

3D Camera Landscape

February 21st, 2009

This is an image from a project I am working on with Processing and live video. It uses the location of the brightest pixel on each video still to define the video stills position in space. Currently working on a version that maps RGB to XYZ for both translation and rotation. The goal would be for the red images to cluster and build in a separate space from say the green or blue. Subtle gradations in color would lead to subtle structural variations, quick jumps in color would produce gaping structures.

It is an fun project that is yielding some interesting images. I think it has potential as an interactive piece as it is fun to point the camera at different people/objects and see the frames coalesce into sculptural 3D forms. I also like the idea of sharing authorship between the programmer, the computer, the environment, the videographer the actors and complete chance.

We Go Hard

December 13th, 2008

I am sure that I am the millionth blog to post this but I couldn’t help it. Very cool typographic video.

NBA Shot Location Visualization

November 9th, 2008


My brother Matt and I collaborated this morning to put together this visualization of shot frequency for the entire 07-08 NBA season. The graphic rotates when you click and drag the mouse and you can zoom in and out with the “S” and “T” keys. We currently have 2 versions, one with cubes and one with bars. The Bars version runs a little slower than the cubes.

I think this is a good example of how location data (where on the court?) lends itself to a 3D visualization. I think you may lose something by mapping this data in 2D. You can compare ours to a heat map version that appears to be constructed from the same data. Next step would be making it interactive so you could check by team or player. Thanks to for the data.

Algorithmic Drawing Apps

October 26th, 2008


I have been looking around at algorithmic drawing apps to see what I can learn that might help in developing my own app. Thought I would share a few on the blog.

The first is “Super Draw“, an interface that Peter Kirn introduced us to in the summer Processing class at Mass Art. “Super Draw” is by New York based artist Joshue Ott, you can see video’s of it in action here, or play with a greatly simplified version here.

I also found some similar work done much earlier by Golan Levin who received his Masters at MIT Media Laboratory in 2000. Several examples of his early work are online including Floccus (1999), Meshy (1998) and Yellow Tail (1998). Levin also performed live in February 2004 at the TED conference using his interfaces. You can see the video here.

Let me know if any of you are familiar with other similar interfaces I may not be aware of.

Amazing Interface

October 20th, 2008

I am not a huge video game player but I have to admit that video games are responsible for the most interesting interface work being done over the last several years. Obviously the Wiimote has changed how we look at interface and interactivity but there are two newer games that I think will leave equally large impressions on the future of interface design.

I mentioned Will Wright’s “Spore” a few months ago on my blog and have yet to mess around with it. You can see a video of the Spore monster creator here.

The video above is for a game called “Little Big Planet” that I will definitely be checking out. From the video it looks like it allows you to intuitively build 3D & 2D environments that are governed by physics. Both Spore and Little Big planet seem to understand that it is much more fun to build your own characters, levels and games that to just play someone elses. The fun is in the making. Looks like I will have to wait to check it out though because they just announced a recall.

Flexible Information Design

October 7th, 2008

I just finished reading the Design Quarterly “HATS” by Richard Saul Wurman. Amongst other things, he elegantly describes the juxtaposition of information to reveal new information. “The creative organization of information creates new information” he elaborates:

“The hats never change, but hanging them in different patterns or with different rules or on different racks can affect what we learn about them”.

This got me thinking about permanence and flexibility in information design. I think Wurman’s description makes an excellent case for the value of interactive visualization. A visualization with an interface that is static or permanent is locked in a single configuration denying the other potential meanings from coming to the surface. The hats are in effect glued to the rack. Whereas a flexible interface allows for rapid reconfiguration and unlocking of additional meanings.

I interpret a static interface for information design such as a poster as an authoritative conclusion. It is authoritative because the manipulating of the hats was taken care of by the expert and the expert has distilled the findings into a static image. On the opposite side, I see the dynamic interface as an invitation to explore and produce new meaning. It is an invitation to move the hats.

I don’t think either of these approaches is universally better than the other when it comes to communicating with intent. What interests me is how successful each method is in engaging the viewer/user. I think engagement presupposes all learning and I suspect that meaningful interactivity increases the chances of engagement. This belief spawned my pre-thesis statement:

How does the assertion and relinquishing of authorial control over message and experience in visualization influence participation and experience for the audience?

My response to this question in my pre-thesis is that when the user has a stake in the creative process the experience is more meaningful. Which leads me to the question, if the most distilled information design is not necessarily the most engaging, are there more effective means of communicating information?


October 5th, 2008

I am taking Design as Experience this semester and have been enjoying the hands-on projects. One of our assignments is to manipulate a piece of rope every day for 15 minutes and document it before and after. I have been doing a lot programming over the last several months and I am learning a lot but working on non-computer projects has been a lot of fun. Sometimes I forget there is a world outside of the computer and how nice it is to work with something other than pixels.

Burritos & Clarity

October 2nd, 2008


Typography is not my strong suite but every once in a while I see type that really stands out for me. I found myself really liking the menu board at Chipotle today. The signs are very simple, reflecting the relatively few choices on the menu. Although I had not been to a Chipotle before, I was able navigate menu and order my food without the usual anxiety that comes with navigating a new menu. With all the confusing information I face on a daily basis this menu stood out as a welcome relief. It made me wonder what the world would look like if extreme clarity became fashionable.

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