Interactive

An Augmented Reality Coral Reef Thrives or Dies by Your Tweets

The White Noise augmented reality installation visualizes the online conversations we have around consumption and conservation.

<em>White Noise</em> AR installation at the Future of Storytelling at Snug Harbor, Staten Island (courtesy Paper Triangles)
White Noise AR installation at the Future of Storytelling at Snug Harbor, Staten Island (courtesy Paper Triangles)

The White Noise augmented reality (AR) installation pits realtime data on consumption against conservation, and consumption almost always wins. The AR project uses Twitter API to track different hashtags, such as #recycling or #brunch. Digital animations of fish and trash in a coral reef represent these hashtags, and are digitally layered over a 3D-printed coral sculpture. Created by Paper Triangles in collaboration with Industry Gallery in Los Angeles, White Noise had its world premiere at the Future of Storytelling Festival (FoST) held in early October on Staten Island.

“We swim in data every single day, and we don’t really register any of that,” Frank Shi, cofounder of the Paper Triangles design studio, told Hyperallergic. “The idea was to try to use AR to visualize data.” They were particularly interested in experimenting with a new way to display data from Twitter, that “white noise” of content, comments, and endless information. “We wanted to use AR to show that in a more tangible way,” Shi added. “That data is so abstract, and very hard to grasp visually.”

They were inspired by the 2017 documentary Chasing Coral to use the visualization to highlight the disappearance of the coral reefs. At FoST, hashtags for #brunch, #sushi, and #coffee were selected, as well as #conservation, #recycling, and #climatechange, and the rate at which they were Tweeted either contributed to a thriving coral reef, or a depressing ocean of trash. A progress bar tracked the impending doom from the rising Tweets on everyday consumption, all viewed in AR through an iPad. Shi noted that he loves brunch, sushi, and coffee, and the goal wasn’t to call out those actions specifically as destroying the world, but rather to consider what our online conversations are focused on.

“Ultimately, data is a reflection of our human nature and ourselves,” he said. Indeed, although an average run of White Noise takes about 25 minutes to reach its doomsday end, Shi stated that “Sunday in New York was a mind blowing day,” and the city’s epic brunch Tweeting killed the reef in just eight minutes.

Eventually, they hope to connect users to organizations like the coral nonprofit the Hydrous, which provided the 3D-printed coral used at FoST, and find museum and education partners. The next stop for White Noise is Aqua Art Miami, which will be December 6 to 10 in Miami Beach. There, the developers will continue to experiment with this project on raising awareness, and creating an offline dialogue about climate change through this social media data.

<em>White Noise</em> AR installation at the Future of Storytelling at Snug Harbor, Staten Island (courtesy Paper Triangles)
White Noise AR installation at the Future of Storytelling at Snug Harbor, Staten Island (courtesy Paper Triangles)
<em>White Noise</em> AR installation at the Future of Storytelling at Snug Harbor, Staten Island (courtesy Paper Triangles)
White Noise AR installation at the Future of Storytelling at Snug Harbor, Staten Island (courtesy Paper Triangles)
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