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Google Building Hopes

2018 Google | Technology

Our second collaboration with Google News Initiative was in response to a growing sense of malaise that gripped much of the world by 2018. With every notification seeming to bear worse news than the last, it was easy to lose sight of the positive progress that connectivity was enabling. We came up with a creative solution spanning digital and physical realms to inspire users to re–engage with current events and their hopes for the future.

Challenge

Leverage Google search data to come up with a creative antidote for information fatigue.

Solution

A hybrid AR-app and digital work of art portraying important issues and related search terms as sculptures transposed onto immediate surroundings.

Services

UX, UI, and data visualization design; Data science; Front & back–end development

Deliverables

Web interactive; AR app

Process

We envisioned an interactive tool that prompted users to reflect on issues of importance to them. To begin, we mined Google Trends data to identify recurring topics in the news and compiled a sizable swathe of interests covering culture, education, technology, society, science, wellness, economy, and medicine.

Next, we brainstormed how to visualize these categories as hopes rather than concerns, with due respect to the weight of issues like poverty and climate change. To convey the idea of accomplishment or "overcoming the odds", we visualized future aspirations as stackable boulders: a gravity defying feat nonetheless achieved by ancient civilizations as well as solo contemporary artists. Working with the totemic formations—”Hope Sculptures”—we added visual elements to connote additional information.

To show these sculptures in the real world, we used Unity 3D to develop iOS and Android–compatible AR apps with Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore technologies. Working with our friends at Monogrid—a digital interactive studio—we explored ways to exploit AR’s applications for data analysis with the ultimate goal of nurturing real–world engagement.

Outcome

Building Hopes is a web and mobile application that portrays hopes for the future as colorful stone sculptures. Upon entering, users are prompted to choose up to ten topics that are important to them from a revolving list, and "weight" them based on their degree of hopefulness. Their answers yield a digital sculpture, transposed onto their physical surroundings with AR technology.

Hope Sculptures aren't just pretty; they function as entry points for curated Google Trends data. The size and rotation of the rocks, their colors and composition, and the speed and direction of their rotation represent users' expressed interests and, simultaneously, global patterns in search traffic.

With a mobile device, users can physically interact with Trends data to access more information. Moving closer to a Hope Sculpture reveals detailed information on search volume over time; rotating one's device shows how selected hopes are faring in the app in countries around the world.

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