Data visualisation has been around for a long time, from graphs to charts, illustrations to realistic objects, their main purpose it to make data alive.
In our first Real Time session, data visualisation was introduced. Hans Rosling’s data visualisation chart was demonstrated in Gapminder Tools (Hans R, 2016). As a group, we picked two data from the website: carbon dioxide emissions and income per person to illustrate a data visualisation. We decided to take on a creative approach and create an illustration. We illustrated a piggy bank to act as the link between the data, the more income a person have, the more vehicle they own and therefore more carbon dioxide will be polluting our environment. By creating this illustration, it opens up the idea of applying creativity into data visualisations.
The Xenomemory was introduced in another workshop session. A project features pig heart was displayed. It was explained that if a human being transplanted with the pig heart, he or she could have the feelings of a pig. For example, the person would have a big appetite and eat anything without being fussy.
In the sound workshop session, we were lined up to create audio data out of newspaper articles. Each person selects a sentence and said it out loud when they were signalled by the conductor. A similar experiment was demonstrated at a conference of a TED talker – Bobby Mcferrin. In the video, he was standing on the stage, splitting the audience into different groups of tone and he jumped around the stage to create the invisible data; while singing along himself, a melody was created similar to the keyboard plays on a piano (Bobby M, 2013).
These workshop sessions greatly improve and expand our views on the possibilities of demonstrating invisible data. The different ways of collecting data played the main inspiration for our project.
Inspired by the workshop sessions, we decided to create a project with a modern perspective. The very first idea was to display 3D objects with appealing visuals and the thought of hologram appeared during the process of researching. During our research sessions, methods of creating holograms were found. We then decided to create our project focus on the hologram.
We started off with a few brief ideas for the hologram:
The first idea was to create a 3D brain model that can light up parts of the brain based on the emotions of a message on Twitter. For example, the amygdala would light up when the keyword – fear, was detected. Our thoughts were to display the hologram inside the dome theatre; with light beams and visual effects display behind the brain hologram model on the dome screen. As we realise the visual might be too much focusing on the dome screen and the trouble of having two visuals playing at the same time, we move to the next idea.
Our second idea was exhibiting a fireplace hologram based on the data of carbon dioxide released from cars. Fire produces carbon dioxide while burning with wood, which connects directly with the gas emission from the transportations. The more carbon dioxide released, the bigger and brighter the fire hologram gets. It is to display the invisible data of air pollution from public transports. In addition, the fireplace hologram will be placed in the woods as a support to the global warming issue caused by greenhouse gas to the forest.
As we are gathering pieces of information and material to create the fire hologram, discussions were held with a few lecturers. They suggested us not to use Twitter to gather the invisible data as it is too common and lack of originality, also to research on the actual hologram itself and explore the history. Thus, we begin our study of the hologram. After researching it for a few days, we discover the meaning of hologram and start to shape an idea around it.
As we explain the origin of the word “hologram” and our idea of merging hologram with dreams to our lecturers, more suggestions were given to create a solid idea based on a single culture to avoid misinterpretations on the hologram videos. Our decision was finalised and decided to focus on the Greek culture, a country with strong beliefs in their gods. This final idea includes displays of greek gods related video based on specific keywords from user’s input. As an example, when we tell our dream to Phantasos – the dream machine: “I was having a barbeque picnic”, a fire hologram video will be playing, as “barbeque” is one of the keywords of Hephaestus, the god of fire. A huge difference attempted in our project is to use Sound recognition instead of Twitter data to record the real-time invisible data – the dreams. When multiple keywords are spoken, the hologram will play related videos and it will pick up the last keyword from the sentence to convey the whole message of the dream.
Hologram and the invisible data
The theory of hologram was developed by Dennis Gabor in 1947. In Greek words, ‘Hologram’ is separated in ‘Holos’ and ‘Gram’ meaning whole and message. Holography was a theory created by Dennis Gabor to upscale the resolution of an electron microscope. A device requires electrons to form an image (JIC, 2016). The first human hologram was built in 1967, a pulsed holographic portrait. However, it has a high demand for power and can only display holography in nanoseconds (R Taylor, 2012).
As we go into the hypnagogic state; the state of being awake to asleep, we have the chance to immerse ourselves into the dream state, the state of exploring the invisible, the state of discovering our unconscious mind. We would dream of anything that we think is possible to achieve, vary from real life events to impossible moments (Rebecca T, 2014). Although dreams can easily be forgotten in the next morning, sometimes we are able to memorise some of the exciting adventures we experienced and they could have a meaning.
Dreams, as the invisible data. In order to collect it, we create a dream catching machine and adapt Greek gods mythology to serve the purpose of showing the whole message behind our dreams.
The Greeks have the belief that dream is a message from the gods.There are many gods in Greece and we are focusing on 14 gods to perceive the message behind our dreams, keywords are prepared with related hologram videos for these gods: Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Dionysus, Hades, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, Hestia, Poseidon and Zeus. For example, Zeus is the god of thunder with keywords including storm, lightning, thunderstorm etc. In our project, we wanted to create the immersive feeling of being in a dream. Abstract videos are used on this occasion. Hence, we created a greek book placed next to Phantasos with the god’s descriptions and description of the related hologram.
In our project, we wanted to create the immersive feeling of being in a dream. Abstract videos are used on this occasion. Hence, we created a greek book placed next to Phantasos with the god’s descriptions and description of the related hologram.
The book was chosen and purchased online specifically to match our theme. Description pages were designed in Photoshop with illustrated Greek gods. Alongside with the use of coffee stains, it was intended to have an ancient Greek character.
The making of Phantasos
Prototype and researching
We begin by making a prototype for Phantasos. We started by cutting transparent CD cases and connect them together with glue, we then test it on top of a mobile phone with online hologram videos. The lenses work perfectly which allow us to up-scale the lens of Phantasos.
Finding a Projector
Phantasos requires a projector and we decided to put the hologram lens upside down to eliminate an empty surface. Initially, we were going for 22 to 24 inches screen, something that is bigger than a mobile screen, similar to the size of an iMac. However, it was quite difficult to get hold of one from the Media Hub. As we struggled to get hold of a screen, we discussed with our lecturer and was suggest to increase the size of our project as a 37 inches TV screen was available and to achieve a bigger impact for the audience.
Lens of Phantasos
We begin to find materials for the hologram lens on the internet and they all seems to be quite pricey and we aren’t certain if they are clear or transparent enough. After researching online without success, we decided to try our luck at the woodwork workshop as we will be needing to make a support stand for the TV anyway. We took the measures by increasing the overall proportion of the prototype lenses. The woodwork workshop offers us samples of PETG and acrylic materials for testing and the PETG seems to be a lot clearer, so we bought 2 big pieces; measured and sketched 4 lenses out of them.
The cutting process begins, everything went through smoothly. From measuring to sketching lines for cutting. Perfect straight lines were created from the table saw and the first lens comes out flawlessly. During the process, one of the lab technicians suggested putting the lenses together to create the perfect crop for all lenses and don’t have to repeat the process of cutting again and again. The idea came out like a spark, we go along with it and stick the lenses together until the first mistake occurred. As the lenses are attached, a mistake was made and all the lenses are cut in the wrong direction. Later on that day, we quickly resolved the issue by purchasing the materials again and cutting the lenses one by one.
After all the lenses are perfectly cropped and sanded, we put them together as a pyramid with masking tapes and the hologram lens stood up faultlessly.
Wooden stand for Phantasos
The idea of creating the wooden stand was inspired by Greek’s podium designs. Our goal was to create a rectangular table with an empty surface. We did not start by cutting a hole from a table. Instead, we obtained strips of plywood and cut them in length. Drilling the plywoods together and we got a wooden frame supported by 4 strong columns. The columns are designed to be very strong and can carry a lot of weight, it will mostly like to stay solid even if we stand on them.
Designs for Phantasos
MDF materials are used for creating a 3 sided wall to protect the screen. Painted in white, we have the intention to transform Phantasos into a Greek themed hologram machine. Initially, gold painted leaves were to add to the surfaces of the fence but they crumpled after dried. So, we decided to add grey painted patterns for decorations and thought that adding the symbol of Hypnos – the God of Sleep could relate to our project. The patterns and symbol are created with handmade stencils.
Merging and Testing
Everything is ready and the testing continues. We arrange the lens underneath the wooden stand and connect the screen to the PC with HDMI cable. As we have only tested the hologram videos individually, they run smoothly and we didn’t know what to expect when everything is assembled together. As we run the sound recognition code, latency issues occur and we have to reduce the number of videos. We had a wireless keyboard to act as a backup for the demonstration on the project. Typing in keywords directly eliminate the latency from the real-time voice recordings.
The project was displayed in the Dome as it is one of the darkest room available in the campus with everything needed such as the table, sockets and audio jacks. Demo video was shown to explain everything we have done from crafting to coding. After the verbal presentation about Phantasos, we did a demonstration. Surprisingly, we do not need to use our backup as the microphone was able to pick up the keywords when a sentence was spoken – “Last night I dreamt about”. The problem we had before was that the microphone could not recognise single keyword we said. It seems to be trying to perform an action by single commands. We were able to show various gods related abstract videos with relevant audio successfully.
There is a few similar holograms display in this format. However, not many of them obtain a meaning. They seem to be a fun object to own rather than an actual project. However, in London’s Design Museum, a female dancing hologram was shown to showcase a French shoe designer’s works. The featured dancer wears the signature shoes and was one of Christian’s loyal customers (Christian L, 2016).
We came across some challenges during the construction of the project, mainly focusing on 3 aspects: physical, software and sound sourcing. The physical mistakes such as lens cutting as mentioned above. In software side, Unity seems to create the major latency on the project. We were not able to run more than 5-6 hologram videos at full speed. Also, finding the related sound to synchronise with the abstract hologram videos are not as easy as we imagined. We are able to resolve these challenges as efficient as possible.
The most important aspect we have to consider is using another coding software to eliminate the numbered restriction on videos, software such as Processing could be considered. The overall design will be focused, as we were desired to create a strong Greek themed podium, extra wooden layers and details will be added. Furthermore, if we wanted to go the extra mile, real marble stone material would most likely be a possibility. As described above, from the inspiration of Christain’s exhibition, we could use the actual god’s figure in the hologram due to the lack of clear definitions from the abstract videos.
The project allows me to experiment different ways of gathering the invisible and convert them into visible. Phantasos allows me to expand my knowledge on Greek’s Mythology and explore the true meanings behind our dreams. I would never have thought of dreams could be a message from the gods. Looking at the sudden lightning strikes in the sky, could it mean the god is trying to tell us something?