Live Data Sculpture On Warsaw Mall Facade Reacts To Nearby Pedestrians, Traffic

November 7, 2019 by Dave Haynes

This is a live data sculpture on a large street-facing LED display on a mall in Warsaw, Poland.

Called Symulakra, the visualized content is directly influenced by things like car traffic on the nearby street and data from cell phones of people gathered around the screen, such as the general intensity of mobile internet usage, and computer vision pattern detection for the age ranges of people nearby.

Viewers can also visit a website and get a degree of screen control thrown to their smartphone via a web app.

The digital sculpture, on a higher rez transparent mesh LED, went live this week and will run hourly in the evenings for five minutes. It can’t just run and run, because the display is owned and operated by Screen Network, a digital OOH media company that also needs to pay its bills. The screen is at a popular mall.

The was commissioned by Screen Network, and the art group panGenerator produced the visualization.

The name for the data sculpture comes from, says Screen Network in its PR, the philosophical term Simulacr (a) simulacrum (Latin simulacrum “similarity, appearance”) was popularized by Jean Baudrillard. It is an image that is pure simulation of reality or creation of its own reality. It can also be a material object representing a living, supernatural and fantastic being in their three-dimensional shape.

Screen Network is a major OOH and online media company in Poland and manages the country’s largest network (23 000 screens) in 3,600 locations. It also has its own programmatic system, called Adform. 

This is not the first data-driven work by Screen Network at this site. The company uses computer vision to trigger ads.

This is pretty interesting. I like that there is a website URL up on the screen when the visualization is running, as it is reasonable to assume few people would know what the heck they are looking at. The downside is that it runs only briefly, and that by the time some pedestrians stopped, watched, and then looked it up, it would be gone.

I still think these kinds of abstract visualizations that use public data would benefit from explainer language right on the screen, to help viewers appreciate it. It’s a lot more interesting and viral if viewers can say to others – “See that? What’s happening on it is tied to what’s going on around us.” Or whatever.

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