Architecture of Radio: an iPad app shows invisible signals

Dutch artist Richard Vijgen designed Architecture of Radio, an iPad app that lets users explore the "infosphere" - a term used to describe an environment that is populated by informational entities like wireless and wired networks, as well as other electronic signals.

The app aims to visualise the invisible network of communication streams transmitting data from one place to another. Vijgen wanted to create an interface that allowed the human eye to see another layer of what inhabits a space - all the electronic signals intersecting around us.

"We are completely surrounded by an invisible system of data cables and radio signals from access points, cell towers and overhead satellites. Our digital lives depend on these very physical systems for communication, observation and navigation," says Vijgen.

What the app does

Architecture of Radio uses GPS to provide a real-time, location-based visualisation of actual signals in the immediate vicinity, including those from cell towers, Wi-Fi routers, and even tracking satellite-based communications overhead.

The app functions as a kind of augmented reality viewer to let people intercept the electronic signals around them. However, unlike most augmented reality apps, the camera is totally inert, replaced entirely by a 3D representation of surrounding electronic signals.

Vijgen explains: "The app visualises this network of networks by reversing the ambient nature of the infosphere; hiding the visible while revealing the invisible technological landscape we interact with through our devices".

Exhibiting the concept

Architecture of Radio will be on display at ZKM Centre for Art and Media Karlsruhe in Germany from September 2015 to April 2016.

One of the reasons the app is site-specific, at least during its exhibition period, is it also incorporates representations of wired infrastructure embedded in the exhibition space.

The iOS app is scheduled for release by December 2015. The Android version is set to follow early 2016.

More about Vijgen’s studio

Studio Richard Vijgen is a design studio for contemporary information culture. "I investigate new strategies to find big stories in big data through research and design," says Vijgen.

The studio focuses on work in the digital domain but that always connects with physical and social space. It produces interactive data visualisations and data installations varying in scale. Vijgen uses code, pixels and 3D printers to describe the world.

The studio’s work includes an interactive visualisation for American artist James Turrell and a 19.000 square foot digital signboard on Times Square.

Parvinder Marwaha


Parvinder Marwaha

British-born editor Parvinder studied architecture in the UK. Amsterdam’s architecture and design scene led her to the city, as well the obvious perks of canal-side living. She writes for various...

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