Tyne is a visualisation of data from 5 sensor values recorded by ~Flow, a tidemill floating building on the River Tyne that generates its own power using a tidal waterwheel, a project initiated by Ed Carter of Modular and The Owl Project. Together with Moritz Stefaner, Studio NAND was commissioned earlier this year to create an online visualization which reinterprets the data recorded by ~Flow. This data, which also drives beautifully built, wooden instruments and sound generators located on board of ~Flow, is publicly available on Cosm.
Each recording of the data captures the levels of oxygen, acidity, nitrates and salinity values in the water as well as the turning speed of the waterwheel. This set of values provides the basis for a flow simulation which generates a unique image per measurement.
Particles are continuously moving from right to left, being attracted or repelled by four circular zones representing the sensor values. The overall behavior of the particles is influenced by the turning speed of the waterwheel. If the value of one sensor is above its mean value, particles are repelled. If the value is below the mean, particles are attracted towards the center of the zone.
This mechanism creates slight turbulences in the stream which in turn produce a single image based on the drawn paths of the particles.
The artistic and manufacturing quality of ~Flowmill highly fascinated us since the start of the project. We’ve initially built a custom server and database-driven archive to store the data from Cosm (Pachube at the time). Although being a technical overhead first, this custom solution allowed us to work freely with the data in the research & concept phase, in which we have developed the overall formal principle for the visualization. This way, we were able to observe from a data perspective how ~Flowmill, with all it’s complex electronics and instruments on board, slowly started a fascinating life of its own.
Tyne receives a new set of data from ~Flowmill approximately once every 30 Minutes. Because of this, we have decided early in the process to choose a simulation for the underlying principle in the visualization which can represent the current state of ~Flow for a flexible amount of time. Each run of the simulation generates a unique image based on the state of ~Flow at the respective point in time.
Some initial R&D was done on Reaction-Diffusion by the Gray-Scott model, to evaluate simulation principles which produce organic looking visual results, resembling wooden structures in order to reference ~Flows material qualities. Although the Reaction-Diffusion model provided visually interesting results, it didn’t provide enough dynamic variation in the browser, so we have decided to investigate on vector fields as a more dynamically interesting simulation principle.