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Revealing inherently invisible and abstract data on a computer screen is one thing. But making it immediate and tangible in physical reality is another. There have been a few great attempts to accomplish just that, such as those that revealed the Readable Volume in the Field of a RFID Reader, or Overlaying Urban Images with Wireless Technology. This project is the next step, larger and more spatially relevant as never before.

By combining a stick full of WiFi sensor-connected LED lights with a long-term photo exposure, Timo Arnall, Jørn Knutsen and Einar Sneve Martinussen achieved a physical life-size bar graph of sorts in their project "Immaterials: Light painting WiFi" [].

In essence, they built a 4-meter long WiFi measuring rod that visualizes the overall WiFi signal strength as a bar of lights on a specific location. When moved through space, the rod displays the changes in the WiFi signal by changing the number of the lights that light up. As a result, long-exposure photographs of the moving rod reveal cross sections of a network's signal strength. The light of the measuring rod pulses as it is being moved, which creates dashed lines rather than solid ones. This creates a semi-transparent texture that allows the visualization to appear within the physical setting without covering it.

Enjoy the pictures or watch the movie below.

Via Flowing Data.


Amazing work!

Mon 07 Mar 2011 at 4:02 AM

It's pretty, but my problem with it is that it's not clear what has been measured. There is a different signal strength in every point in space, but they visualize it as if only the position on the horizontal plane was important. But there is probably a different strength at the top of the bar than at the bottom. So I would have used a single receiver/light module that only varies in intensity and move it around on two axes instead of the bar on one.

Mon 07 Mar 2011 at 1:14 PM

pascal raises good points - in response to the actual device location, one could use a different color light to denote the actual height of the device, taking average height of device usage (ear-level, waist-level) into account. in response to the 2D question, i think the project is more about a concept representation than an exhaustive measurement system. if you did want to measure exhaustively, you could multiple passes and simple spatial measurement hardware (even a hacked wii remote and sensor bar) and interpolation algorithms to build a comprehensive 3D map of signal strength. but yes, amazing work

Thu 10 Mar 2011 at 3:15 AM
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