The Architecture of Radio app (image by Juuke Schoorl via Architecture of Radio)

Richard Vijgen, Architecture of Radio app (2015) visualizes electromagnetic radiation (all images by Juuke Schoorl via Architecture of Radio)

The modern world is awash in a sea of radio waves — currents of electromagnetic radiation upon which our digital lives depend. What if you could see this invisible dimension? A new app, Architecture of Radio, renders this hidden layer of reality visible, revealing the pulsating spirals of energy all around us.

Created by Dutch information designer Richard Vijgen, Architecture of Radio visualizes OpenCellID‘s global open datasets from 7 million cell towers, 19 million Wi-Fi routers, and hundreds of satellite locations. Based on your GPS location, the app depicts a 360-degree view of the radio signals all around you. Vijgen calls it “a field guide to the infosphere, the hidden world of digital networks.”

When you point your iPhone or iPad in any direction, the technological landscape revealed is mystifying. It’s not a practical app, but rather a high-tech art project, a reminder of how limited our human senses are and of how technology can help compensate for those limitations. It’s one of a slew of new augmented reality apps and programs that visualize how much of our surroundings are inaccessible to the human eye, like “In the Eyes of the Animal” helmets that let you see nature as super-sighted animals do.


Architecture of Radio app


Architecture of Radio app


Architecture of Radio app

A site-specific version of the Architecture of Radio is currently on view in The New Art Event in the Digital Age at the ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (Lorenzstraße 19, 76135 Karlsruhe, Germany) through April 2016. If you want to try it out at home, it’s just become available for $3 in the App Store for users of iOS 9. The Android version drops in January 2016.

h/t Creative Applications

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Baffler, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.

One reply on “A New App Visualizes the Radio Waves All Around Us”

  1. I wonder how much is measurement and how much is, er, creative interpretation. It is easy to detect electromagnetic fields but I don’t see how their ‘shapes’ could be detected by using just one detector which only gets what happens at one point in space

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