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A Captivating Mechanical Cloud That Tells The Weather

Just don’t expect to know whether or not you’ll need that umbrella.

You know what some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers are doing right now? Decoding genomes? Sure. Working on top secret research for U.S. military forces? Probably. But what about just forecasting the weather? This simple conversation topic is actually one of the biggest challenges to modern computational science, not just tracking countless microscopic forces at work, but predicting where they’ll go tomorrow and the next day.

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Yet how do we experience the weather forecast? A sun icon. A cloud. A stagnant, oversimplified image.

This simplification clearly drives James Leng a little crazy, so he created Point Cloud, the antithesis of the old sun wearing sunglasses. It’s an Arduino-driven wire mesh, consisting of 8 servos, 300 feet of wire, and 966 joints. And its goal is to visualize the weather as what it is: a force constantly in flux, one that’s “complex, unexpected, and hopefully wondrous.”

“Cloud performs the data, dynamically shifting between stability and turbulence, expansion and contraction. It re-introduces weather conditions as a permanently variable state, and creates a visceral experience in our interactions with weather,” Leng writes. Even though it’s analyzing the same wind speed, humidity, and temperature data we see everywhere else, Point Cloud uses this data to generate a hypnotic awesomeness by presenting a clearly regimented logic that we’ll never be able to comprehend.

Obviously, Point Cloud can’t work in our weather forecasts. We’ll never see Weather on the Eights cut in with this pseudo-organic robot pulsing the conditions in our own zip codes because it’s not a practical idea (nor is it meant to be). But could we use a little more wonder in our daily weather? Could we picture incoming thunderstorms as forces more complex than animated GIFs of lightning bolts or 6-color doppler radar maps? I’d like to think so. Just be sure to keep mentioning whether or not I’m going to need that umbrella.

[Hat tip: Creative Applications]

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day

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