Eye-Opening Visualization of RFID Fields (video)

Ghost in the Field, RFID visualization
Stop animation illuminates the otherwise invisible interaction space surrounding an RFID reader.

How do you visualize something that is invisible? That’s the challenge that Timo Arnall, Jack Schulze, and Einar Sneve Martinussen faced when they decided to give designers a better insight into RFID technology. Radio Frequency Identification tags are simple coils of wire that interact electromagnetically with RFID readers. There are more than 4 billion in the world at the moment, allowing us to track goods, prevent theft, and pay for purchases without ever having to touch two objects together. Using RFID readers and an RFID tag attached to an LED light Arnall, Schulze, and Martinussen created simple, artistic animations that show us the invisible interactions inside the technology. Watch the Ghost in the Field video below and get a view of the unseen fields of the digital world.

When you use your credit card by ‘tapping’ it , or pay for bus fare by waving your ID in front of a reader, you’re using RFID technology. Yet few people, either on the design or consumer side, really understand that interaction. How close do you have to be, where do you have to wave the tag, how should you hold the card? Arnall, Schulze, and Martinussen’s Ghost in the Field project answered these questions in a clear, eye-opening way. As we race ahead to develop new and useful innovations, we often leave the designers who make those devices user-friendly struggling to catch up. Projects like this even the odds, and give us all a new insight into the technology that surrounds us.

Created in 2009, Ghost in the Field is among the first in a series of projects that hopes to understand the invisible and intangible technological forces that pervade modern life. “Immaterials”such as RFID fields, WiFi networks, and broadcast signals are a necessary ingredient in the activities we perform everyday yet they go unnoticed because they can’t be seen with the naked eye. Arnall (Touch project and the Oslo School of Architecture and Design) and Schulze (BERG design firm, London) along with their colleagues are exploring ways to visualize Immaterials so that other designers can better understand and create the products related to them.  It’s interesting to watch their exploration of these qualities – sort of like pulling back the curtain and taking a glimpse at the digital world. Considering how popular near field communication has become in the last few years, and how much greater its impact could be in the years ahead, we should all strive to better visualize they way these Immaterials work in our physical world. Staring down at my Clipper Card bus pass, I can almost see the range of interaction that would surround it. …Or maybe I’ve just been in front of my computer too long.

[image and video credit: Timo Arnall, Jack Schulze, Einar Sneve Martinussen]
[source: Touch Project, BERG blog]

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