Data Moiré by SDA/IBM Watson

Data Moiré by SDA/IBM Watson

Synthesis Design + Architecture recently completed Data Moiré, a data-driven feature wall for the IBM Watson Experience Center in San Francisco that leverages the cognitive computing capabilities of IBM Watson to inform a parametric modeling and digital fabrication design process.

Data Moiré is a large-scale data-driven feature wall that merges the territories of "Data Spatialization" and "Data Narrative" by using the cognitive computing capabilities of IBM Watson to inform a data-driven generative design process to articulate a vast quantity of data as a spatial experience and marketing narrative for the IBM Watson Experience Center.

The result is a digitally-fabricated physical installation which illustrates monthly spending cycles by mapping the growing influence of mobile devices on all digital sales from 2013-2015. The data is materialized as a CNC milled, double layered aluminum, back-lit screen wall that produces a moiré like effect through abstract visual interference patterns produced by the overlaying of two mappings of the same data set as the cladding of the Watson immersion room.

The project provides a dynamic architectural feature that provides identity and enhances the visual and spatial experience of visitors to the Watson Experience Center, while simultaneously providing a uniquely spatial marketing narrative that highlights Watson's ability to analyze large quantities of unstructured data.

Design + Architecture and IBM Watson collaborated in a multi-disciplinary design process which challenged IBM to utilize Watson's cognitive computing capabilities to provide relevant data analysis to drive a generative design process. The result is a feature wall that is a physical representation of information abstracted from a chronological set of Big Data, which on it's own provides an iconic identity for the center. However, when the wall is experienced as part of a guided tour and explained by a docent, the Skin is utilized as the physical manifestation of narrative visualization, thus providing a powerful analytical, creative and narrative tool in revealing new ways of comprehending, navigating, and experiencing information.

While the project is driven by data - the legibility of that data is abstract rather than literal. Rather than provide a statistical or analytical reading of the data, the project instead provides a spatial and atmospheric reading that enhances the experience of visitors to the center, and encourages them to engage spatially. It is only through the guided tour of a docent, where the legibility of this data is conceded through a verbal narrative. That oral explanation activates the Skin to act as more than a Narrative Visualization, but rather as a Narrative Spatialization that not only is able to illustrate the findings of the data which produced it (the chronological metrics of e-commerce affected by mobile sales), but also serves to highlight the technology that produced it (the cognitive computing of IBM Watson).

Data Moiré capitalizes on two computational paradigms: the capacity of cognitive computing and machine learning to analyze and provide insights into massive amounts of unstructured data including the ability of generative design processes to drive geometries that are informed by data. However, it is not the analysis nor the geometries themselves which are the impactful products of this project, but rather the the capacity of the analysis and the geometry combined that are able to communicate this information to a wider audience.