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  • Writer's pictureRob George

Week 5 Research: Eyeo Talks

Updated: Dec 4, 2020


For this post I will be talking about two artists, Robert Hodgin and Moritz Stefaner, who both had the opportunity to speak at one of the Eyeo Festivals.

What is the Eyeo Festival?

"The Eyeo Festival brings together a rich intersection of people doing fascinating things with technology. Artists, data designers, creative coders, AI & XR explorers, storytellers, researchers, technology & platform developers all cross paths and share inspiration at Eyeo. It is a 4 day event of enthralling talks, unique workshops, the code+ summit, and thought provoking interactions lead by passionate thinkers and makers." - taken from the about page on

Some topics they talk about:

  • Art / Technology

  • Creative Coding / Open Source Tools

  • Data: Visualization, Design, Art

  • Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence

  • Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality

  • Experience Design / Storytelling

  • Interactive Art & Architecture

  • Physical Computing / Generative Art

  • Culture / Privacy / Ethics


Eyeo Talk 1: Robert Hodgin 2014


I found Robert Hodgin's 2014 Eyeo talk to be very entertaining. Not only did he have some interesting projects that he demonstrated and explained but his personality was shown through these projects.

Who is Robert Hodgin?

Robert Hodgin is the Interactive Director and Co-Founder of the Design + Technology studio Rare Volume. His work ranges from simple 2D data visualizations to immersive 3D terrain simulations. Primary interests include theoretical physics, astronomy, particle engines, and audio visualizations and his preferred tools include Cinder, OpenGL, and GLSL.

He’s a co-creator of the Cinder C++ framework along with Andrew Bell, Hai Nguyen, and dozens of developers around the world.

Robert is also a founding partner of the Barbarian Group who he worked with until late 2009. He helped to establish the west coast office and was head of the labs division. In early 2011 he worked with Bloom Studio and worked on the Planetary iPad app which was the first code acquisition by the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

His work has been shown at the Victoria&Albert Museum, Wing Luke Asian Museum, McLeod Residence Gallery, Wired NextFest, San Francisco Exploratorium, and the San Francisco Independent Film Festival. He graduated in 1998 with a degree in Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design.


Portfolio site:

Eyeo Talk Vimeo: (50 minutes)

Project 1: PLANET EARTH (Date?)


Unfortunately I cannot find the date for this project. He does not mention it in the Eyeo talk and the project isn't currently on his portfolio site. When I find it I will update this post.


Hodgin created an interactive simulation using code that replicated a realistic rendering of planet earth. It is a simple set up of three layers (Red = surface, green = clouds, blue = atmosphere) with high resolution images and textures from He started with the surface layer (red) and created solid flat images of earth with a light source. He then added a Land Mask to create a shiny ocean. Added elevation map textures to the surface to create a more realistic rendering as well as city light textures to the dark side of the globe. Next was the cloud layer (green). Added cloud textures with drop shadows to distinguish the different layers. Finally the Atmospheric Layer (blue). He found an article "GPU Gems 2: Chapter 16: Accurate Atmospheric Scattering by Sean O'Neil" that described a code for simulating atmospheric and light scattering effects. Used this code as well as blurred city lights texture to give the impression that the clouds scattered light from the sun and the cities below. He also created an eclipsing sun effect with glows to help create an aurora borealis effect on the edge of the atmosphere.

What I thought was interesting about this project is his humor that he put into it. He said he was inspired by the movie Gravity that had just come out and wanted to add an effect where you would be spinning uncontrollably in orbit around the earth like Sandra Bullock. He named the variable "mSandraBullockMatrix" and I just thought that was great.

He even added in some pointless data visualizations just for fun to demonstrate what he can do with this coding. He says these are just lines connecting cities and they have no meaning.

Project 2: Murmuration 2016

Hodgin has a fun project called Murmuration that he created. It was based on the murmurations of starlings but the code he used was inspired by a couple previous projects such as Boil Up and David and Goliath. Both these simulations used similar codes that involved math and physics to simulate the actions of fish swarms or bait balls and mating tornados.

He used similar code for this murmuration of birds but added an effect that is similar to how New Yorkers walking around in the city get aggravated as the crowd gets more dense. The birds are simple triangular shapes that act in the same way the real starlings would when they are murmurating. There is a little diagram in the bottom left corner that pops up that explains his three rules of flocking:

  1. Act of Repulsion

  2. Act of Alignment

  3. Act of Attraction

The object has a personal bubble and depending on where another object is within the bubble, one or all of the rules will be activated.

He uses these three rules to increase the intensity of how the birds flock together. The best part of this demonstration is when he increases the New Yorkiness to maximum, all the triangular birds attack the camera and then an error message pops up with a picture of a scene from the classic "horror" film The Birds.


Eyeo Talk 2: Moritz Stefaner 2019


After my research post on data visualization I've developed a strong liking for the topic. Not only did Moritz Stefaner explain a few of his data visualization projects but he also explained the design process he took while making them. I found that to be very interesting and helpful when learning about data visualization.

Who is Moritz Stefaner?

Moritz Stefaner works as a “Truth and Beauty Operator” on the crossroads of data visualization, information aesthetics and user interface design. With a background in Cognitive Science (B.Sc. with distinction, University of Osnabrueck) and Interface Design (M.A., University of Applied Sciences Potsdam), his work beautifully balances analytical and aesthetic aspects in mapping abstract and complex phenomena.

In the past, he has helped clients like the OECD, Google News Lab, Salesforce, Deutsche Bahn and the Max Planck Research Society to find insights and beauty in large data sets. He was nominated for the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany and is the record winner of the Kantar Information is Beautiful awards. His work has been exhibited at Venice Biennale of Architecture, SIGGRAPH, Ars Electronica and the Max Planck Science Gallery.

He also publishes the Data Stories podcast together with Enrico Bertini.


Portfolio site:


In his Eyeo talk he was mainly talking about his interest in the earth and the economy. He uses a lot of natural metaphors in his work and has a three step strategy when it comes to finding new ways of thinking and reasoning with global warming:

  1. Make ecological information more tangible.

  2. Create sustainable opinionated tools

  3. Citizen Science: Get people closer to the data creation processes.

He also uses this design method to find the data and to come up with ideas of visuals for people to understand the data in a unique way:

Eyeo Talk Vimeo:

Project 1: Data Cuisine (2012-2019)

Data Cuisine is a project he collaborated on with Susanne Jaschko where they represent data in local food through "color, form, texture, smell, taste, nutrition, origin etc." They have been running workshops in multiple cities since 2012 and collaborated with local people to collect data and visually explain it through their food.

One of their data visualization recipes I found interesting was one done in Belgium (2016) called "Atomic Shots". They used the Gin tonic's fumes and glow to "represent nuclear accidents at the four Belgium nuclear power plants and the amount of people living within their 30 kms zones. Each gram of gel globules in the shots corresponds to 100,000 people living in these zones."


"Atomic Shots" Belgium 2016

Another recipe from the same workshop that I thought was great is the "Death by Chocolate" recipe. "Death by Chocolate could be both: a delicious way to represent data on a not-so-sweet subject or a seductive oracle telling your fate. The 3D-printed caskets are made of dark chocolate and come with 5 different fillings representing the most common causes of death in Belgium. Choose a praline and find out which type of death you picked!" I think this is a fun, interactive way to visually explain the different causes of death in a specific area and how random they can be.


"Death by Chocolate" Belgium 2016

Project 2: Project Ukko

Project Ukko is an application that "allows energy traders, wind farm managers and others to spot global patterns and trends in future wind conditions, and drill into detailed prediction breakdowns on a regional level." It's design is meant to generate predictions of wind intensities and patterns in specific parts of the world by displaying a map of lines that describe wind intensity through color, thickness, and tilt.

Can use it yourself here:

When you select a wind region a panel opens up with more information such as the wind history in that area. It also show the prediction of wind patterns in the near future.

I find the design of this user interface to be very satisfying. I love the colors chosen and the portrayal of wind through simple lines. Stefaner even provides a video of the globe using this concept of predicting wind patterns in a 3 minute looped video. It's just satisfying to look at and explore.


Eyeo Talk Vimeo:

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