The MIT alumni who founded the art and technology studio Sosolimited are experts at visualization. They used the Empire State Building to display Super Bowl predictions, transformed a chandelier into a global data map, and turned the London Eye into a massive mood ring at the 2012 Olympics.
But their most recent task was much more abstract: visualizing a thrill. In the November issue of the Atlantic, the studio teamed up with Porsche and Atlantic Re:think, the magazine’s creative group, to visualize the heart beats, breathing rates, and acceleration of 25 drivers behind the wheel of a Porsche Macan—speeding more than 100 miles per hour—on a closed 1.5-mile course.
“A lot of our projects are on the border between data visualization and artistic interpretations,” says Sosolimited’s Eric Gunther ’00, MEng ’02. “This one was definitely on the artistic interpretation side.”
Each driver wore a high-tech t-shirt that measured heart beats, breathing rates, and body movement. The Sosolimited team—which also includes Justin Manor ’00, SM ’03 and John Rothenberg ’02, SM ’07—then combined millions of data points with information from GPS devices plotted along the course.
“Once we had the data, our biggest challenge was to bring enough legibility to our designs so people could understand what was happening,” Gunther says. “I don’t think any of us actually knew what the data would look like.”
The end result was a racetrack-like design that used colors to contrast upticks in heart rate and respiration with car acceleration and hair pin turns.
“Art of the Thrill,” The Atlantic
“You can see someone coming around a corner and their heart rate spikes or they start to breathe heavily,” said Wade Aaron, a designer at Sosolimited. “When you trace their data over the track, you end up with this really unique fingerprint of their experience on the racetrack.”
In addition to the snake-like data designs for all 25 drivers, Sosolimited also displayed a collection of individual still images that track heart and breathing rates plus the acceleration and positions of the cars.
In the image below, according to The Atlantic, the blue, pink and green colors depict the heart rate, and the outer translucent form represents breathing rate. When the shapes expand, the driver is experiencing the “thrill” of a 120 miles-per-hour joy ride.
“We wanted a complex image that would still be pretty elegant,” Gunther says. “In the end, by playing with different mathematical mappings, we were able to let the data speak for itself.”
Visit The Atlantic Re:think website to learn more about the project and see all the images, data, and videos associated with the project.