List of Physical Visualizations
and Related Artifacts
Active physical visualizations

1992 – Durrell Bishop’s Marble Answering Machine

In 1992, Durrell Bishop, then a student at the Royal College of Art, came up with an original answering machine design that is considered as one of the first tangible user interfaces (TUIs). The machine spits out a marble each time an incoming voice message is recorded. The order of the marbles indicates the order in which the messages arrived. Messages can be played back by putting a […]

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2007 – Wable: Web Behavior Shown with a Dynamic Bar Chart

A dynamic bar chart visualizing one's online activity. From the company's website: The personal feeds from webapplications like Plazes, Flickr, and Last.fm tell much about the activity of an individual on the internet. In this project we aim to explore how you can visualize the changes of your web identity over time and create a physical link between your virtual and real identity. The interface consists of both […]

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2007 – Garden of Eden

Garden of Eden consists of eight lettuces, each of which is enclosed in its own air-tight plexiglas box and represents a major city. The concencration of ozone in each box is controlled in real-time to reflect the current pollution level in the city. Sources: Thorsten Kiesl, Harald Moser, and Timm-Oliver Wilks (2007) Garden of Eden (web page) Thorsten Kiesl, Harald Moser, and Timm-Oliver Wilks (2007) Garden of Eden (paper)

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2009 – DataMorphose: Animated Sails

DataMorphose is an interactive installation which projects various data streams into real space and visualizes it three-dimensionally. Information is represented by spanned and moving sails directly in the room. Source: Christiane Keller (2009). Data Morphose.

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2009 – Pulse: Animated Heart Shows Sentiments

pulse is a live-visualization of recent emotional expressions, written on private weblog communities like blogger.com. Weblog entries are compared to a list of emotions, which refers to Robert Plutchik’s seminal book Psychoevolutionary Theory of Emotion published in 1980. Plutchik describes eight basic human emotions in his book: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation. He developed a diagram in which these eight emotions, together […]

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2009 – Virtual Gravity: Giving Physical Weight to Data

Virtual gravity is an interface between digital and analog world. With the aid of analog carriers, virtual terms can be taken up and transported from a loading screen to an analog scale. The importance and popularity of these terms (data base: Google Insights for Search), outputted as a virtual weight, can be weighed physically and compared. Therefore impalpable, digital data get an actual physical […]

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2009 – Poly: Physical Bar Chart Showing Online Poll Data

Poly, a self-actuated bar chart which shows replies to online polls. Sources: Digit, London. Original polling website is down [Oct 2014]; check out an archived version instead.

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2009 – Centograph: Dynamic Bar Charts Show Keyword Popularity

Ten actuated bar charts that show the popularity of keywords of interest in news articles over time, made by the company Tinker from London. A separate search interface is provided on a regular desktop computer and sends queries to the Google News Archive. It is permanently installed in the St Paul's School for Boys Computing Department in London.  Sources: infosthetics Tinker London  

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2009 – Leithinger’s Interactive Shape Displays

Daniel Leithinger, PhD student at MIT MediaLab and his colleagues, are studying interaction with shape displays. The team designed two impressive shape displays made of arrays of ultra-fast motorized pins. Relief (2009-2010, first row above) is made of 120 motorized pins on top of which can be added a rubber sheet and a projected image. Each pin can be addressed individually and senses user input like pulling and pushing. […]

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2010 – Dynamic Bar Chart to Visualize One’s Finances

A design project by Swedish designer Hampus Edström to help people keeping an overview of their financial situation. Sources: Hampus Edström, project presentation. Yanko Design blog.

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2010 – eCLOUD & airFIELD: Ambient Airport Visualizations

Left image: eCLOUD is an airport installation at the San Jose International Airport created by Dan Goods, Nik Hafermaas, and Aaron Koblin. It is made of many large LCD pixels laid out in 3D space whose opacity change as a function of weather. Right image: A similar installation called airFIELD was created by the same team two years later. It shows air traffic and is installed at the Hartsfield-Jackson […]

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2010 – Dust Serenade: Sound Waves Materialized

'Dust Serenade' is a reenactment of an acoustic experiment done by German physicist August Kundt. Inspired by the Chladni's famous sand figures visualizing sound waves in solid materials, Kundt devised an experiment for visualizing longitudinal sound waves through fine lycopodium dust; a setup that would allow him to measure the speed of sound in different gases. Kundt was a strong believer in experimental methods over […]

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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.

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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 […]

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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 […]

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2012 – Pulse: Tangible Line Graph

Pulse is a tangible line graph. It is composed of a string whose position is changed with six servo motors. By tilting the device, one can change between three information feeds. Pulse was created by designers Jon McTaggert and Christian Ferrara. Source: Christian Ferrara and Jon McTaggert, cargocollective.com/Pulse

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2012 – Point Cloud: A Dynamic Weather Sculpture

James Leng’s ‘Point Cloud‘ consists in a 3D wire structure materializing real-time weather information by moving and undulating. The wire structure is articulated by pistons activating wheels to deform the surface according to data. The structure could be articulated for other types of data than weather forecast. This structure represents a first attempt to build a physical 3D weather forecast system. The speed, smoothness, and direction […]

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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.

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2013 – Pneumatic Charts

The Hive Big Data Think Tank at Palo Alto created a device for visualizing city data (power, waste, demographic, transportation) using blowers, microcontrollers and ping pongs balls. Sources: Lance Riedel, Christophe Briguet, Srinivas Doddi, Daniel Schwartz, Pashu Christensen, The Hive @City Camp Palo Alto for the National Day of Civic Hacking! Svetlana Sicular (2013) Now Open.

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2013 – Tidal Memory

Tidal Memory displays the evolving daily tide at full scale. Receiving live data from the oldest tide station in the western hemisphere, twenty-four water-filled glass columns function as a tidal clock and 24-hour sculptural archive; recording a full day of hourly tide levels starting at midnight. 26’L x 2.5’W x 10’H – Glass, stainless steel, water, custom electronics. Tidal Memory is permanently exhibited at the […]

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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, […]

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2014 – Drip-By-Tweet: Each Vote is a Drop

Team of developers Domestic Data Streamers created a real-time physical visualization of votes for a graphic design contest. A person can vote for a specific piece by sending a tweet, after which the machine releases a drop of yellow liquid and sends it to the corresponding test tube. Source: Domestic Data Streamers.

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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 […]

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2014 – #Good vs. #Evil

A race is going on between two Twitter hashtags, materialized by two cars. The blue car represents #Good, the red car represents #Evil. Source: Patrick Keller (2014). I&IC Workshop #3 at ECAL: output > “Botcaves” / Networked Data Objects.

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2015 – Physical Weather Display

Japanese Software engineer Ken Kawamoto invented the Tempescope, a device that displays weather forecasts or current weather physically. The Tempescope physically simulates weather forecasts via a wireless connection from a computer or a smartphone in real-time in order to get a better idea of what the actual weather is outside. Raining is simulated by water dripping down the box, temperature is represented by color-chaning LEDs and cloudiness […]

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2015 – Passim: Visual Reconceptualisation of Spatial Theories

The master thesis of Paul Heinicker, Passim, visually reflects the humanistic discourse about space. The research of spatial theory led to four major notions how to think space from a sociopolitical perspective. The installation explores the relationship of these four spatial notions by projecting visualisations of geopolitical data from the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research onto the physical sculpture. Eventually, different world-views are created, that show […]

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2015 – Wage Islands

The "Wage Islands" installation by Ekene Ijeoma makes clever use of water as a data query device. Wage Islands is an interactive installation which submerges a topographic map of NYC underwater to visualize where low-wage workers can afford to rent. Sources: Ekene Ijeoma: Wage Islands Huffington Post: Dazzling Interactive 3-D Artwork Visualizes The Tragic Affordable Housing Crisis In New York City Creators: Turning New York's Salary Gap […]

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2016 – Podium: Physical Competition Monitor

Podium is an internet connected device that uses real-time social data to show comparative rankings of a brand’s performance versus their competitors. Developed in a partnership between iSketchLab and TrackMaven, Podium is a physical device that pulls Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter data from airline brands and offers an snapshot overview of the brands' performance on social media. Sources: Podium

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2016 – FizViz: A Wall-Mounted Data Gauge

Maker project by iot design shop of a clock-like physical visualization device. "The concept is that you'd hang a set of FizViz widgets in your office, workshop, or wherever you want to watch and share data that matters" Source: FizViz – Large Scale Physical Visualizations for your Stats! (video)

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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 […]

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2016 – Dataponics: Human-Vegetal Play

“Dataponics: Human-Vegetal Play” maps human physical activity measured by a Fitbit to the amount of light and water fed to a potted plant. Also, the system measures the moisture in the growing hydroponic medium (in this case, expanded clay) that surrounds the plant’s roots, and plays different internet radio stations accordingly.  Source: Cercos, R., Nash, A., Yuille, J., Goddard, W. (2016) Coupling quantified bodies: affective possibilities of self-quantification […]

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2017 – Damião’s Dataphys Project

A project that communicates information in a beautiful and unusual way. Using simple features, Evandro Damião a data intelligence professional from Brazil creates a project that allows even blind people to interact with graphics through audio, braille, acrylic and a lot of creativity. Visualization and physicalization are not the secrets to communicating data, they are only some aspects that must be transcended. Source: Evandro Damião […]

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2018 – The Long Run: Marble Runs Convey Cost of Health Care

An artwork that represents the cost of health care for different age groups, based on the time it takes for a marble to fall. Each of the 7 runs represents a different decade of life, and the length of the runs presents the average cost of care to the UK's National Health Service, for a person in that year of their life. Each run […]

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2018 – ON BRINK: Live Physicalization of the Bitcoin Blockchain

ON BRINK is a physical data visualisation of the Bitcoin blockchain: Adapting the mining metaphor, it encodes data on blocks appended to the chain in real-time. It produces piles of soil that relate in size to the number of transactions within a block, and displays six of them at a time on a continuous conveyor system, thus reflecting the human attention span given to […]

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2018 – Living Map: Precipitation Visualized with Moss

Climate change is a very hot topic nowadays. We are facing extreme weather events more and more frequently. Unusual temperatures, excess rainfall or extremely strong winds, forest fires disrupt our habitual life. The LIVING MAP visualizes the change of summertime rainfall in Europe. A precipitation data comes from the European Environmental Agency. The data was derived using climate simulation model. It compares summer precipitation in […]

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