During a research internship at the data visualization group of the French National Comupter Research Institute – INRIA, I explored the potential of utilizing concrete scales in data visualization through augmented reality. The app I built in Unity with Google ARCore faced the user with the externalized consequence of their consumption by visualizing a years worth of their trash through the viewfinder of their smart device.
The advent of low-cost virtual and augmented reality in the last decade has brought about billions in funding and a litany of questions of how to best utilize the new medium.
My first a-ha moment was when I first looked up at the Titanosaur through a pair of Google Cardboard googles.
Many modern implementations of data visualizations that utilize AR or VR attempt to shoehorn traditionally two-dimensional visualizations to an interactive three-dimensional experience with little added benefit.
I understood the main advantage of these mediums was not to map abstract scales onto a new environment but to utilize the environment with concrete scales; leveraging the users innate sense of dimensional space and everyday objects to visualize otherwise impossible experiences.
I had the opportunity to further research this notion during my internship at the data visualization research group Aviz, part of the French National Comupter Research Institute – INRIA outside of Paris, France
I was able to consult with researchers who had long been studying the idea of Embedded data visualizations, where-in a visualization was deeply integrated into the physical spaces, objects and entities to which the data refers.
With a realm of research to dive into I chose the topic of individual waste production as a lens through which to explore my implementation.
The idea was to afford users the experience of visualizing one year’s worth of personal waste using the concrete scale of a trash bag. The visualization would be situated in front of them through an augmented reality application.
I chose to learn the Unity 3D game platform for it’s versatile build platform options and AR support. The research, design and development took place over the course of four months.