2018 | Google News Initiative

Building Hopes

Data Art, Augmented Reality Experience, and Public Data

An experimental AR app to explore our hopes as individuals and society, to access Google trends data in a completely new way, and to invite us to reflect critically on our own interpretation of any kind of data.

Brief

We live in a world awash with information. Every time we walk the street holding our phones, every time we perform a research online or buy a product with our credit card data is created and often time communicated to us. How can we make people care about a specific dataset? How can we form our own opinions and points of view on what matters to us? With Building Hopes we wanted people to take a stance on what they are hopeful for, even in a historical moment that many define as hopeless and bleak, and have them look at Google search data through this framework of their own creation.

Accurat imagined and designed an immersive data-art experience that invites people to materialize their hopes as permanent augmented reality sculptures and to use them as a lens to explore and understand Google Trends data. In collaboration with the friends at MONOGRID, Accurat created a fully responsive web application and two native AR iOS and Android apps, built in Unity 3D using Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore technologies.
iOS/Android app: hope sculpture placement

Solution

In the context of recent international tensions and of a generally diffused concern on the rise around the globe it is also possible to recognize a growing energy, a particular form of personal and collective type of activism that is creating many little sparks of hope for the future that are spreading at the speed of social media. Building Hopes lets people create physical structures in the world, data sculptures made of balancing rocks that represent the ideas, concepts, movements they are hopeful for.
iOS/Android app: entity selection

Through the native app, which is also possible to access via web, users are invited to choose up to ten ideas as they access the application, concepts that can be “weighted” and turned into rocks big and small according to how much hopeful they are for them.
iOS/Android apps: Hope sculptures in different locations

Each rock represents a topic, and they can be stacked to create a physical manifestation of people’s hopes, that will be placed in a specific location around the world in Augmented Reality: “Hope Sculptures” for everyone else to discover and explore through the mobile app.
iOS/Android app: data exploration - Overview

Once a sculpture is created, it can be used as a way to access Google Trends data on the topics of our own choice, revealing how people around the world are searching for these concepts, or discovering what others are hopeful for, and how much. The size and rotation of the rocks, their direction and speed are used to represent Google Trends’ data, creating a metaphysical visualization of something ephemeral but very close to people’s intimate beliefs.

Through the app users can explore and discover other Hope Sculptures around the world both in the native augmented reality mobile app or in the more traditional web app that uses 3D graphics to visualize the sculptures: the three dimensions are used specifically to investigate how a more realistic space can foster new types of exploration of data and information.

iOS/Android app: data exploration - Close up

Even more, AR is an important feature of the product because it brings an element of “physicality” to something so intangible as our hopes are, letting people actually erect their sculpture in the world and interact more naturally with it.

Process

Experimenting with a three-dimensional environment and the Augmented Reality space has led us to develop unusual ways to represent and interact with data. In fact, as you access Google trends data once you’ve created your hope sculpture, you can reveal and discover more granularity and details n the data as you get physically close to the sculpture by moving your body towards it. Also, as a natural way of interacting with the trend, temporal data over a timeline are explored by means of physically turning your screen around, accessing google trends in a real 360 degrees space. Furthermore, as previously explained, features such as the speed and direction of the rotating rocks are used as unusual but clear ways to represent trends in the data.
Web app: compare section

Results

With “Building Hopes” we are at the same time experimenting with how data visualization can look like and behave in augmented reality, but we are also implicitly letting people create their own frame of reference before letting them look at data: trends will inevitably have a different meaning for everyone and, by having people make a conscious decision on the reasons why a topic is important for them and by providing a fully explorable 3D environment we hope we can create a more meaningful and personal experience of interaction with data and also let people think critically about their own interpretation of it. We approached this project from the very simple idea that the creation of meaning is by definition a very personal activity that can’t be generalized, made universal: “Building Hopes” reminds us that working with data doesn’t mean necessarily illustrating the one and only truth on a topic, but most of the times it simply means providing an access to information that can be interpreted in many different, maybe also contrasting, ways.
Team
Giorgia Lupi
Giovanni Marchi
Alberto Massa
Luca Mattiazzi
Gabriele Rossi
Cesare Soldini
Elisa Spigai
Alessandro Zotta
MONOGRID
Simon Rogers
Alberto Cairo
Services
Data Art
Augmented Reality Experience
Public Data

Mapping, 3D Visualization, Analytics, and Governance

Data Art, Physical Installation, and Augmented Reality Experience