A seismoscope is a qualitative indicator of seismic activity -- as opposed to seismographs which show quantitative data, typically through line graphs. The oldest known seismoscope is Chinese and dates backs from 132. It was a large bronze device that dropped a ball into a bronze container (one of the eight frogs on the image above) every time an earthquake was detected, thus producing a loud sound. The direction of the earthquake could then be examined by looking at the container in which […]
1871 – Thermodynamic Surfaces
A physical visualization by Scottish physicist James Maxwell (left), constructed over the course of about seven months, from November 1874 to July 1875, based on the descriptions of thermodynamics surfaces described in two 1873 papers by American engineer Willard Gibbs. The molded shape depicts the geometry of the three-dimensional thermodynamic surface of the various states of existence of water: solid, liquid, orgas, shown on Cartesian coordinates of the entropy (x), volume (y), and energy […]
1880 – Klein's Mathematical Plaster Models
In the 19th century, mathematicians became interested in the question how mathematical functions look like. Felix Klein, a German mathematician, had several of such physical models in his lab in Göttingen, and popularized them in America when he brought a boatload to the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893. The photo above shows a model of a Clebsch surface from 1880, designed and presumably built by Adolf Weiler, Klein's grad student. It is kept today at the University of Göttingen. Sources: […]
1935 – 3D Visualizations of Power Consumption
A large 3D physical visualization made by the Detroit Edison Company showing electricity consumption for the year 1935, with a slice per day and each day split into 30 min intervals. Two other examples from different Edison electricity companies are discussed in Brinton's book. These physical visualizations seem to have been used to better anticipate power demands. Also see our entry 1951 - Electricity Generated or Demanded. Sources: Willard Cope Brinton (1939) Graphic Presentation pp […]
1945 – Electron Density Map and Molecular Model of Penicillin
Electron density map and model of Penicillin created by Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin in 1945 based on her work on X-ray crystallography. The Penicillin molecule was the first molecule whose structure was derived entirely from X-ray data. Dorothy Hodgkin later received the Nobel price for applying the same technique to determine the structure of the B12 molecule. Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-94) was awarded the prestigious and exclusive Order of Merit in 1965 to add to her 1964 Nobel Prize for ”her […]
1961 – Voskhod Spacecraft 'Globus' IMP navigation instrument
This device was the location indicator for Russian spacecrafts from the world's first manned spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin, 12 April 1961, until 2002. It contains a mechanical computer and a physical globe which rotated to always display the point on earth exactly underneath the spacecraft, or, alternatively, the point where the spacecraft would land if the re-entry rockets where fired at that exact moment. The numbered bullets on the globe in the third picture indicate radio communication […]
2003 – Mount Fear: Elevation Map of Crime Rates
A 3D map of East London where elevation represents the rate of violent crimes between 2002 & 2003. Corrugated cardboard, 145h x 540w x 425d cm. Source: Abigail Reynolds. Mount Fear East London.
2005 – Tactile Rubik’s Cubes
An online article compares several different designs for tactile Rubik's Cubes created between 2005 and 2010. Left image: different objects on the outside of the cube give each side a different feel. Right image: laser-cut shapes. Source: Smithsonian magazine.
2007 – Explosion of Sound Sculptures
In 2007-2008, sound became an endless source of inspiration for data sculptors. Examples include (images from left to right): Binaural by Daniel Widrig & Shajay Bhooshan (2007) Sound/Chair by Plummer Fernandez (2008) Sound Memory by Marius Watz (2008) Reflection by Andreas Nicolas Fischer & Benjamin Maus (2008) I Will Never Change by Us by Benga (2012) Microsonic Landscapes by Juan Manuel de J. Escalante (2012) The Shape of the Sound of the Shape of the Sound by […]
2008 – Rearrangeable Wooden Model of Brain Scan
A selection of MRI data glued on 60 wooden blocks which allow to physically dig into cross sections, by Neil Fraser. More details on infosthetics. Source: infosthetics.com.
2008 – BMW Kinetic Sculpture
The Kinetic Sculpture is a metaphorical translation of the process of form-finding in art and design. 714 metal spheres, hanging from thin steel wires attached to individually-controlled stepper motors and covering the area of six square meters, animate a seven minute long mechatronic narrative. In the beginning, moving chaotically, then evolving to several competing forms that eventually resolve to the finished object, the kinetic sculpture creates an artistic visualisation of the process […]
2009 – Mitchell Whitelaw's Weather Sculptures
Weather data is another interesting choice for creating data jewelry. Above to the left is a bracelet created by Mitchell Whitelaw based on one year of weather data from Canberra. The right image shows a measuring cup made by the same artist, where each ring represents monthly average temperatures in Sydney over 150 years. Sources: Mitchell Whitelaw. Weather Bracelet (2009) Mitchell Whitelaw. Measuring Cup (2010)
2009 – Distribution Plushies
A commercial offer for a set of 10 plush distributions. Although not formally physical visualizations, they could in principle encode actual data. Source: web shop
2009 – S-XL CAKE: Irregular Cake Mold
A cake mold that creates pieces of cake in different sizes. Although not a physical visualization, it could in principle encode data. Source: Ding 3000 via Infosthetics.com.
2009 – In-Formed: More Data-Driven Tableware
Another data-driven tableware, this time conveying world statistics. The fork on the image shows calories consumption for the US and three other countries. Source: Nadeem Haidary.
2009 – Form Follows Data: Tableware
This set of tableware by designer Iohanna Pani conveys personal statistical data. Source: designboom
2010 – Computer Glitches as 3D Objects
Glitch objects is a series of artworks by Tracy Cornish which transform two-dimensional visual results of computer glitches into three-dimensional objects by mapping properties of a visual glitch into 3D space. The left image shows glitch object 22, the right image shows glitch object 218. Computer glitches are the completely random, unpredictable and unexpected failures of digital systems. They are the result of approximated values and computational compensations for inaccessible […]
2010 – Hans Rosling Adopts Physical Visualizations
Hans Rosling is famous worldwide for his fascinating speeches about population growth and income inequalities, notably his 2006 TED Talk where he debunks myths about the third world using animated charts. In 2010 he started to tell stories about data using physical visualizations. He started by stacking Ikea boxes, then switched to a variety familiar objects including pebbles, toy construction kits, fruit juice, snow balls and even toilet paper. Hans' son Ola Rosling is behind the […]
2010 – Keyboard Frequency Sculpture
A 3D bar chart on top of a keyboard which shows the frequency of each letter in the alphabet. Source: Michael Knuepfel. Keyboard Frequency Sculpture.
2011 – Manually Animated Graph of Scientific Data
Philadelphia-based multi-discipline artist Bradley Litwin built this physical chart that can be animated by turning a crank. It is the only manually-animated physical visualization we know of so far. It was commissionned by a pharmaceutical company, intended as an educational device for distributing to doctors. Bradley was kind enough to send us an image of the insides of the original prototype, "not quite as pretty as the final product", he says. His explanation: As the crank is turned, […]
2011 – Adrien Segal's Data Furniture
Adrien Segal is an artist with a background in furniture design. She takes a data-driven approach where she uses data of natural events and environmental developments and transforms them into beautiful furniture. The choice of forms and materials conveys the origin of the data in an intriguing way. Left image: TRENDS IN WATER USE is a data sculpture that graphs national statistics of water usage in the United States over 50 years, from 1950 - 2000. The width of the canyon walls represent […]
2011 – David Bowen's Sea Wave Replicators
Top: Tele-present water by David Bowen is an actuated surface controlled by wires and servo-motors that replicates sea wave patterns measured in real time in a remote location. Bottom: Underwater is a larger-scale version created by the same author. Sources: David Bowen (2011) Tele-present water series. David Bowen (2012) Underwater series.
2011 – DataCoaster: Data-Driven Toys
DataCoaster is a re-imagining of the classic waiting room toy. But instead of arbitrarily loopy lines, DataCoaster's lines are generated by data, essentially transforming a simple, kinetic toy into a graph of information. If you're interested in getting one of these for your data, have a look at the source for this entry and contact Bobby - he is planning to offer this service. Source: Bobby Genalo. DataCoaster.
2011 – Can We Keep Up: Sponges Show Domestic Water Usage
Can We Keep Up is a a physical data visualisation that investigates the domestic need for water in cities all over the world. Source: infosthetics.com. Image from Hal Watts.
2011 – DIY United States Electoral Vote Map
This is a 3D scale replica of the United States, the state height corresponds to the number of electoral votes each state controls in a presidential election. Source: thing 11178 on thingiverse.com
2012 – Chaotic Flow: Abstract Flow Visualization of Copenhagen Bike Traffic
Biking is the transport form of choice in Copenhagen, Denmark. The city is equipped with generous bike lanes and the municipality put up counters at some check points to get a better estimate of the thousands of cyclists coming through every hour. Tobias Lukassen, Halfdan Hauch Jensen and Johan Bichel Lindegaard from Illutron Collaborative Interactive Art Studio used this data to create the above depicted abstract visualization of the city's bike traffic for the 4S / EASST joint conferences […]
2012 – Dynamic Network Sculpture
A physical space-time cube representation of cultural heritage data. Source: Florian Windhager, Eva Mayr. Cultural Heritage Cube: A conceptual framework for visual exhibition exploration. IV '12.
2012 – PARM: Static Terrain Models with Projection
The PARM system is part of an ongoing research project at the University of Nottingham. A static physical relief model is augmented with top projection to display landscape details and to overlay with additional data visualizations. Sources: James Goulding's project page. Pristnall et al (2012). Projection Augmented Relief Models (PARM): Tangible Displays for Geographic Information.
2012 – All Possible Photons: Steel Feynman Diagrams
These are stainless steel sculptures of Feynman diagrams created by Edward Tufte. They are currently (opening Sep 12, 2012) exhibited at Edward Tufte's gallery in Chelsea. Source: Edward Tufte. All possible photons - The conceptual and cognitive art of feynman diagrams.
2012 – Emoto: Projection Augmented Heatmaps of Twitter Data
The core of the installation is a physical data sculpture consisting of 17 objects, each representing all Tweets we have collected during one day of the Olympics. Mapped onto this physical sculpture we have then projected individual heat maps for the most interesting themes we have identified while observing emoto during the Games. Users were able to navigate through these themes using an interactive controller and thus explore our archive. Source: Moritz Stefaner, Drew Hemment […]
2012 – Hypermatrix: Animated Matrix-Walls
2012 Yeosu EXPO HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP created by media artist group : Jonpasang. Hyper-Matrix is a kinetic landscape installation created for the Hyundai Motor Group Exhibition Pavilion in Korea, the 2012 Yeosu EXPO site. The installation consists of a specially made huge steel construction to support thousands of stepper motors that control 320x320mm cubes that project out of the internal facade of the building. The foam cubes are mounted to actuators that move them forward and back by the […]
2013 – Walkable Age Pyramid
A walkable age pyramid of the German population. It was part of an exhibition on demographics by Atelier Brückner. The sculpture gives an impression how the distribution of age groups shifted between 1950 and 2010. For example, it shows how two world wars took out certain age groups and the lasting effect of the "Pillenknick" (the drop of birth rates due to the wide availability of "the pill"). Sources: Left photo: front view (time goes from the front to the back) picture taken by Michael […]
2013 – Network of the German Civil Code
A room-filling visualization by Oliver Bieh-Zimmert (Visual Telling) that illustrates the patterns of references within the German civil code. Each red thread stands for a reference to another paragraph. Source: you can find more info and images on the visual telling website.
2013 – Season in Review: iPad + Physical Charts Show Baseball Stats
Baseball stats for an entire season created by Teehan+Lax labs as a combination of an interactive ipad app with an overlay of physical charts cut from acrylic. Depending on the current choice in the app, the edges of different charts get highlighted by the ipad. Source: Teehan+Lax labs & vimeo.
2013 – Layered 2D Plots
A series of stacked 2D plots showing changes in energy sources for different countries by PhD student Simon Stusak from University of Munich. All plots are cut from acrylic and hold together in one corner to facilitate alignment of the layers. The y-axis is mapped to countries, the x-axis to different energy sources, and the z-axis to time. Sources: Simon Stusak (2013) Physical Visualizations: An Exploration. Simon Stusak, Aurélien Tabard and Andreas Butz (2013) Can Physical […]
2013 – NYC High School Dropouts
Ben Kauffman and Sam Brenner created this visualization as part of the ITP program at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. It is a combination of a 3D-printed relief map of New York City with beads where each bead represents one school location. Each bead on top of the relief map is connected to a string below whose length indicates the number of students who dropped out of that school. Source: More pictures, a video and all the details on the project can be found on their project page.
2013 – Solid Statistics
Left image: A 3D printed version of the "Forbes 2000" list showing the 240 largest companies, by Volker Schweisfurth. Market value is mapped to surface area, sales volume is mapped to volume, and the continent from which the company originates is mapped to color (America (blue), Europe (green), Asia (yellow)). The picture illustrates how a physical model of this 3D visualization gives a better impression of perspective than the printed perceptual cues in the original paper visualization. […]
2014 – x.pose: a Wearable Dynamic Data Sculpture
x.pose is a dynamic wearable data sculpture that makes the collection of the wearer's location data visible in real-time in the physical world. From the project webpage: x.pose is a wearable data-driven sculpture that exposes a person's skin as a real-time reflection of the data that the wearer is producing. In the physical realm we can deliberately control which portions our bodies are exposed to the world by covering it with clothing. In the digital realm, we have much less control of […]
2014 – TiltWatch: Physical Tilt Indicator For Shipping Goods
This ShockWatch tilt indicator can be attached to packages which must remain upright during transportation. If the packet is tilted to either side, the little balls move into the next chamber. The recipient can then later check the degree of tilting the packet experienced during transportation. The upper row indicates tilting to the left, the lower to the right. The ball in the round indicator moves in to the outer torus when the packet is turned over 180°. Source: ShockWatch, TiltWatch […]
2014 – Dynamic Physical Charts Display Community Data
David Sweeney from Microsoft Research designed these beautiful, mechanically driven, physical charts to communicate data to people living or working on Tenison Road in Cambridge, UK. The charts are part of a research project to explore what is the general public’s understanding of data and how it can be used to improve the life at street level - be that, better access to services, improving social relationships, better engaging with local governance, etc. Beyond making data more eye […]
2014 – 888,246 Ceramic Poppies to Commemorate Fallen Soldiers in WW1
Don't miss the major art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London, marking one hundred years since the first full day of Britain's involvement in the First World War. Created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, with setting by stage designer Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies will progressively fill the Tower's famous moat over the summer. Each poppy represents a British military fatality during the war. The poppies will encircle the iconic landmark, creating not […]
2014 – People Wood: Data Sculpture of Questionnaire Data
Manor House Development Trust, a charitable social enterprise centred in Hackney, commissioned Something & Son to create a sculpture to take pride of place in the new Redmond Community Centre at Woodbury Down in North-East Hackney. Something & Son approached Inition for help creating a crowd-sourced data sculpture featuring a forest of over 400 3D-printed trees, each corresponding to an individual’s answers to an online questionnaire. Source: Something & Son with Inition. […]
2016 – Actuated Prism Map of Italy
This actuated prism map was created by Alessandro Masserdotti in the OpenDot Fablab in Milan, Italy, for the SOD16 meeting and invites people explicitly to Touch That Data. OpenDot Fablab (Milan) project with Arduino and 3D printing visualizes regional statistics changing the height of each region. In the picture there's the building count from the regional extracts. Sources: Open streetmap wiki, 2016. Video from a demo at OSMIT 2016.
2018 – Steven Pinker explains Global Life Expectancy with Physical Line Charts
Bill Gates shared a short video featuring Steven Pinker on his Twitter feed with the comment People today are living longer, healthier, and happier lives than ever before. I asked @sapinker to explain why. At first glance it appears that line charts are digitally overlaid on the video. However, closeups and a light swaying of the graphs when Steven Pinker touches them, as well as the addition of another country towards the end of the video indicate that the graphs visible in this […]
2021 – State of the World as Population Pyramids
-- The collection "State of the World" is composed of population pyramids and was created by Mathieu Lehanneur for the 2021 exhibition art basel - design miami. Each of the 100 sculptures encodes the population data of one country: age is encoded in rings from birth at the bottom to 100 years at the top; the width of each ring encodes the proportion of the population being of that age. each age pyramid reveals the particularities of a nation — the youth of chad, translated by the geometric […]