Still beavering away at my final project. Here is an A3 Research poster prepared for last weeks’ project session, but expect some better stuff soon. Cultural probes have started to come back, I’ve started to analyse those so will post my findings soon.
Archive for April, 2011
“Abertrack” is a Processing program and visualisation which tracks and plots the voy- ages of an international oil tanker called MV Aberdeen. Ship location data is provided by a service called “Ship AIS” which provides regular updates, including the latitude and longitude of the vessel. As my partner works at sea, I regularly check Ship AIS but often find the information confusing. There is an option to view the vessel position on a map, but it only shows the previous 6 hours of movement.
I wanted to create a nicer, more aesthetically pleasing visualisation of the MV Aberdeen’s movements over a longer period of time.
When I embarked upon this project, I wanted to pull the vessel’s location data from the Ship AIS system via XML feed, however this proved to be an insurmountable feat. Most sources did not have an XML feed that Processing could read, and the only one I could find required a fee of several hundred pounds to access. However, I expect with enough time – and perhaps some outside advice – I could eventually overcome this problem by reading the val- ues straight from the PHP cell on the website.
After several weeks of battling with the above, I opted to manually store the data in a text file. I then called this into Processing as an array, with each line (latitude, longitude) being parsed as a string. This was an easy workaround and allowed me to achieve what I had set out to. For each string, I drew an eclipse to mark the co-ordinates of the ship at that time. Once I had my co- ordinates plotting correctly, I joined them with a line.
The biggest challenge I faced in this project was plotting the GPS co-ordinates onto a 2D map. It took a lot of research into mercartor maps, a distressing amount of maths and rather a lot of trial and error to finally come up with a solution which enabled me to plot GPS co-ordinates directly onto my map.
SCOPE & POTENTIAL
There is potential for this concept to be scaled up to create larger and more engaging visu- alisations. This example shows a mock-up of three different vessels in three different seas, in different colours.
There is also potential to make the map interactive, for example allowing the user to zoom in on specific areas or choose which ships they view. A live feed would be nice.
As inevitably predicted, I’ve gone for a very loose connection to the theme of “myths”!
When hearing people talk about myths, it is often sea-related things which spring to mind, eg. mermaids, the Loch Ness Monster, the Greek God Posiedon, etc. One of the most famous myths is based around the Chinese Ocean God T’ien Hou – a mythological being who guarded sailors and kept them safe. She would watch over sailors and ensure they were always safe on their voyages. Arguably, tracking vessels ensures their utmost safety and security – so my project relates to the theme in this way.
You can view the A3 poster I made to accompany the project by clicking here.