Cloud Sculpture Visualises Social Media in Real-Time

The Listening Cloud (#ListeningCloud) is a fluffy data-driven light sculpture that visualises social media conversation in real-time. Created by a group of creative and technology Associates at ad agency RPA and installed in the company’s lobby, it continuously monitors the social media buzz around client brands. Any time there are tweets, hashtags, likes or comments about a client, the cloud storms with multi-coloured lightning that corresponds to the different social media channels.

“We wanted to build something that could show what’s happening in the social media ‘cloud’ in real-time, not as data or a visualisation on a screen, but as a fun, sensory, physical thing,” said Perrin Anderson, Creative Director at RPA. “We hope that others will share their ideas on the marriage of creativity and data by using the hashtag #ListeningCloud on their social accounts.”

Custom software pulls in real-time data from the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram public APIs, then sends commands through a wireless bridge to LEDs inside the cloud, visualising the data through different light colours and behaviours. It uses the Phillips Hue lighting system and its RESTful API, which allowed software to be coded using Node.js to communicate with the lighting controller. A Web-interface on a nearby monitor lets viewers choose what they’d like the cloud to “listen to” and also displays a raw, real-time feed of the data it’s processing.

Though currently programmed to monitor RPA client brands, the cloud can really visualise any data stream. It could monitor the spread of a hashtag or news story, visualise the social buzz battle between sports teams while a game is being played, illustrate shopping activity on a website or be hooked up to motion sensors placed around the agency to show the amount of physical “activity” happening.

The team views the current cloud as a prototype and plans to explore these possibilities and evolve further iterations. But they also want to see what other people might come up with, so they’ve shared the ingredients and instructions for building your very own cloud.

About RPA

RPA, headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif., is a leading independent advertising agency. RPA builds momentum for brands by offering its clients truly integrated campaigns that resonate throughout its disciplines, which include traditional advertising, interactive, and direct and event marketing. RPA’s client list includes American Honda, California Department of Public Health, Intuit Small Business, La-Z-Boy, Farmers Insurance Group and Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. For more information, visit http://www.rpa.com.