We had a great time last week at Visualized, a two-day conference exploring the evolution of communication at the intersection of big data, storytelling and design.
Javier de la Torre, Vizzuality’s CEO, was one of the “storytellers” invited to present new ideas on how to make a bigger impact when visually sharing data-driven stories, whether it is for personal use, business, education, or social innovation.
Javier took the stage for 20 minutes to talk about Planet Hunters and other projects crowdsourcing data to annotate millions of records, and build compelling stories that connect with audiences. You can check and download the presentation here.
Visualized is an inspiring gathering, and we were delighted to participate. Thanks to the organizers for the invitation.
Planet Hunters, a project by Zooniverse, announced this week the discovery of the first confirmed planet found by the citizen science initiative. The planet is labelled ‘Planet Hunters 1′, or PH1. There’s full info about the discovery on the project’s blog.
We developed the online tool to help amateur astronomers sieve through data taken by the NASA Kepler space mission and search for new planets. These huge amount of data consist of brightness measurements, or “light curves”, taken every thirty minutes for more than 150,000 stars. Participants can use the online tool to search for possible transit events.
The logic behind the project relies on the pattern recognition abilities of the human brain. Planet Hunter participants may outperform computers at finding signals in this type of data.
The online tool allows them to review and annotate the images. A minimum of three separate observed transits are needed as well as follow-up observations to confirm a possible candidate as a new planet.
PH1 has been confirmed by astronomers in Yale. It is a circumbinary planet (it orbits two stars instead of one) that is about 3,200 light-years from Earth. As of October 15, 2012, there are sixteen confirmed systems of circumbinary planets. The discovery has been a true team effort and has received wide press coverage by publications like Wired, BBC and NPR.
“Anyone viewing the sky from PH1 would have a spectacular view of all four stars”, as it is described in the Planet Hunters blog. “More importantly, this amazing system will help us understand how and where planets can form —producing a stable planet in a system where four different stars are moving about can’t be easy.”
Here there is a list of other Planet Hunters candidates. Congrats to the Planet Hunter team for this amazing discovery!
We’ve been today in Zurich at The Graphical Web, an amazing conference for discussing “what is aesthetically possible on the web”. @saleiva has participated in a session on 2D Web Mapping and Web-GIS showing advanced mapping techniques and hacks used in Vizzuality’s real projects.
You can check and download the presentation here.
The abstract of the talk is also available at the conference’s website. Thanks to the organizers for the invitation!
The Old Weather Project, a citizen science initiative by Zooniverse, has reached its goal: all the logbooks from 280 World War I Royal Navy ships have been read and transcribed in their entirety. This means over 1 million, six hundred thousand new weather observations have been recovered resulting in an amazing treasure trove of information. Congratulations to the entire community of volunteers, project partners and everybody who has been following it.
Vizzuality built the project’s site, a collaborative tool to help online volunteers transcribe the handwritten pages; containing one of the earliest and most systematic collections of climate data across the oceans. Where the computers failed, volunteers have carefully annotated the digitized logs.
This is an image of the tool used to read the photographed logs online and transcribe its content:
This body of work, compiled by a virtual army of volunteers, will help scientist and researchers build a more accurate picture of how the climate has changed. The records also contain ample historical data and stories that will permit historians to track ship movements and understand the circumstances of the people on board.
“We’ve got the weather records, and richer and more detailed and extensive historical infomation than we expected, but we’ve got much more than that: we’ve grown an amazing community of project participants, and we’ve planted the seeds for several other projects with similar aims”, reads the post on the milestone published at the Old Weather blog.
Here at Vizzuality we are very excited to have helped building this community that collected all this data. OldWeather is one of the projects that best defines Vizzuality, in its goals and in the way it’s been executed. Over the next couple of months you will see another similar project, this time working with Biodiversity data, lets hope it is as successful as OldWeather.
A new dataset for climatologist is created! Today our inner science geeks and the environmentalist we have inside is overwhelmed with joy.
Two weeks ago we launched The Evolution of the Web, a revamped, dynamic visualization of the history of web technologies and browsers, and the growth of global internet users and traffic since the early nineties. This work was done in collaboration with the Google Chrome team and Hyperakt. The Evolution of the Web project launched for the first time in 2011 has grown and improved with each version.
The web today is a growing universe of interlinked web pages and web apps, teeming with videos, photos, and interactive content. What the average user doesn’t see is the interplay of web technologies and browsers that makes all this possible. — Evolution of the Web 2.0
The Evolution of the Web uses a timeline to illustrate the interaction between web technologies and how they’ve evolved. The visualization highlights how each new technology has given web developers the ability to create “new generations of useful and immersive web experiences” from 1991 through present day.
The visualization is made with vector shapes and it is mobile and tablet-ready for Android and iOS. There’s also a brand new visualization included that shows the growth of internet —both global internet users and global internet traffic.
The result is an appealing, responsive visualization of the technologies that make browsing the internet a great experience. If you have attended the Google I/O conference for developers (June 26-29, San Francisco), you may have seen it projected on the big screen on Day 2 of the keynote. Otherwise, you can experience it at www.evolutionoftheweb.com (best viewed on Chrome 19+, Firefox 13+, Safari 5+, Opera 11+, or Internet Explorer 9+), or read a full description of the project here: http://vizzuality.com/projects/evolutionofweb20.
These are exciting days at Vizzuality. In the last two weeks we’ve launched some of the biggest projects we’ve been involved so far, the Endangered Languages Project and the Evolution of the Web visualization. And we’ve received great feedback.
The Endangered Languages Project, a collaborative tool developed to facilitate the work of linguists and volunteers documenting endangered languages, has received coverage from hundreds of publications worldwide like CNN, TechCrunch and Mashable. It was also linked at Google’s home page. We are learning a lot about scalability this week. I think our team deserves a badge for “I developed an app that was on the Google home page and it did not go down and responded in less than 150ms”. A little bit long for a t-shirt, but quite a story!
These are images from Google.com, Google France and Google Hong Kong, but we were all around the globe:
And yesterday, Google’s senior VP of Chrome and Apps, Sundar Pichai, showed our latest project Evolution of the Web in his keynote presentation at Google I/O 2012 Developer’s Conference held in San Francisco. It is really impressive to see our work in such a huge screen and with thousands of people looking at it.
This is a photo taken from the live video streaming of the conference:
We will explain in a future post the details of this visualization of the history and pace of innovation in web browsers —we developed it for Google in collaboration with our friends at Hyperakt. Meanwhile, we wanted to share with you the images above.
What a week!
We just finished a new project called Endangered Languages Project, an online collaborative effort to protect global linguistic diversity. We developed it for the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity under the direction and supervision of Google.org.
It is estimated that half of 6,000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century if nothing is done to prevent it. There is a need of new tools and services to reverse this trend and keep all languages alive, especially those unwritten and still undocumented —and at higher risk of becoming extinct in the near future.
The information available about many languages “is scant or outdated”, according to the Linguistic Society of America. In order to preserve them, linguists are trying to collect as much information as possible. The goal of the Endangered Languages Project was to develop a collaborative site to facilitate the work of linguists and volunteers documenting endangered languages, and empower their effort.
This video introduces the initiative.
From the technical side, it was a challenge. We had to design a user-friendly tool considering different kinds of users and their respective needs: From expert linguists to language speakers and volunteers from all around the world. We had to edit and display the almost-raw academic documentation in an attractive and meaningful way while preserving its rigor. The site also had to support standards like OLAC to describe language metadata.
The resulting tool we have built is a robust, scalable site with full information about more than 3,000 endangered languages. Registered users can enhance or correct any entries, and provide new samples and documents about languages.
“You can hear the heartbreaking, beautiful sound of Koro being sung, or read 18th century manuscripts written in a nearly-dead Native American tongue”, says an article on the project published at Mashable.
“Documenting the 3,000+ languages that are on the verge of extinction is an important step in preserving cultural diversity,” write project managers Clara Rivera Rodriguez and Jason Rissman, from Google.org.
The Endangered Languages Project promotes a full collaboration between linguists and the general public to empower the documentation of endangered languages. We are very proud to be part of this great effort.
More info: vizzuality.com/projects/endangeredlanguages/
The Basque Government, the governing body of the Basque Region in Spain, has recently launched Irekia 2.0, an Open Government platform based on a prototype conceptualized and developed by Vizzuality. It’s been one of the most challenging projects we’ve been involved in, and we’re very proud of the result.
Irekia is an online platform to let citizens be heard in the Basque decision taking. Version 2.0 seeks to enhance the project, launched in 2010, creating a direct communication channel between the citizens and the Administration. In order to meet this goal, we built an open source social network and added new capacities to the platform.
You can check a working prototype here.
Among other features, Irekia 2.0 allows citizens and representatives to create a profile, send in comments and appraisals, and vote on the government initiatives and proposals. As the participation between politicians and citizens is the key part of the project, we also developed a mobile application to facilitate the use of Irekia by local representatives. They can update their profile, upload images and videos, and answer questions made by citizens wherever they are.
To promote transparency, the new version will also include open data and an archive of images from the Basque Government.
By defining new ways for citizens to understand and interact with their government, we hope the new Irekia 2.0 will make the Basque Country one of the most Open Government places in the world. As usually, everything is open source. You can fork the project here.
We spent yersterday’s Earth Day at our offices in NYC trying to do balloon mapping, a nice way to end an intense EcoHackNYC weekend. It is the second time we co-organized this (un)conference. Last fall we gathered at NYU and this time we met at Parsons.
The event started Friday with a series of 5-minute ignite talks. On Saturday, we divided in small groups and worked on solutions. Here is a sample of some of our favorite geospatial projects.Visualizing Species Trading
A five-team group, including three from Vizzuality, worked with a big and interesting dataset of 12 million endangered species trades, to create an interactive visualization called the Species Sphere. All data is fetched from CartoDB and visualized using d3.js. Amazing work done in just 8 hours!
Improving the creation of Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Another group worked on a simple map interface to communicate local demand for community-supported agriculture (CSA). The project is built on Heroku for hosting, MapBox for map tiles, Leaflet for the mapping interface, and jQuery with CartoDB for all the analysis.
Check too this map of global forest height showing deforestation in the Amazon, build at the EcoHack:
We weren’t there alone
This time we also expanded the meeting beyond data and code and we teamed up with The Public Laboratory to add a hardware-hacking to the event. The Public Laboratory has developed a balloon mapping kit that enables you to collect your own aerial photos from up to 1000 ft. Using the open source MapKnitter web-based software, you can stitch the resulting images into a web-viewable map.
The Air Quality Egg team brought also their DYI sensor-box for real-time air column monitoring. It was customized and added to the balloon kit to gain additional capabilities. The system contains sensors to read NO2, CO, temperature, humidity, compass (to calculate wind direction), wind speed, dust (particulate matter), VOC’s, altitude, as well as O3, and streams the data in real-time via XBee to Pachube.com.
It was a great, brilliant event. We are looking forward to the next one!
Vizzuality has contributed this post to the New York Botanical Garden blog. You can read it also here.
This weekend, for the second time in under a year, we are throwing an event to bring together scientists, developers, designers, and others to work collaboratively on environmental projects that matter. We call this event EcoHackNYC. It is a free (un)conference where a small group of people present projects, problems, or data they think need to be developed, and then larger groups of enthusiasts and experts work tirelessly to develop solutions (also check out last year’s event here). For us, this is a special event.
We have been working primarily on projects in biodiversity, conservation, and the environment, guided by a genuine passion and belief in the societal value of such projects and a love of working in domains that present multifaceted challenges, not the least of which is visually explaining meaningful knowledge. We are optimistic that scientific research results will drive forward new ways of understanding and communicating scientific information and will ultimately improve the world around us.
EcoHackNYC was conceived to help reduce one major obstacle in the way of the science we love: scientists, technologists, and designers have very few forums to cross-fertilize and forge new collaborations. Please come and join us with all of your beautiful ideas and diverse talents to help drive forward the technologies and solutions we so desperately need.
Registration for this event is still open.