Our visual perception system, with its 20+ billion neurons, is processing more information than all of our other senses combined. Its pattern-matching capabilities have evolved immensely over the centuries, giving us the ability to detect both larger patterns and intricate details within milliseconds. We are wired to detect shapes and colors, so why not use this system for visualizing and perceiving data?
Itinerant is an experimental weather forecast app, utilizing the human visual perception system (i.e. recognizing shapes and colors) instead of the symbolic interpretation system (i.e. reading words and numbers). It is an experiment in outperforming traditional weather information data displays in terms of how long it takes to parse and understand the information. Even more importantly, it is an experiment in helping to change the nature of that understanding.
-- Imprecise by design
We all know and accept weather forecasting to be about approximation. Good forecasts are more accurate than others, but no forecast is ever precise since it is, after all, a prediction. However, contrary to the nature of weather forecasting we are also quite used to our data interfaces presenting us with artificially precise data, giving us an illusion of precision.
Since were all used to reading data as symbols, it was natural that the weather forecast interfaces (in TV news segments, mobile apps, etc) would evolve to show us these data points using numbers. We have been trained over time to accept those 23C shown by the weather app as a promise of some sort, and we accept the fact that it is most probably going to be broken to a certain degree if youre directly in the sun it will be hotter, if youre in the shade it will be a bit cooler, and even more cool if theres a sudden gust of wind.
For these reasons, Itinerant is intentionally imprecise.
-- Vague by design
Were already accustomed to bluer hues representing colder temperatures and orange and red ones representing warmth, but on the other hand we have a hard time remembering exact color shades and we even have difficulty naming color shades in a consistent manner, so theres quite a bit of ambiguity there. For exactly these reasons, color is used to visualize temperature in Itinerant.
Is it 19C? 23C? You cant tell immediately, and thats the whole point. After using the app for a while, your visual processing system kicks in and you wont need the auxiliary interface (tap the screen once to access it) to help you out anymore because youve already memorized the patterns without thinking about it. After a while, that green blob speaks to you, without you even trying.
You can move around the time axis by swiping left-right across the screen. Tapping the screen brings up an auxiliary interface where you can see the data point values as sliders, so you can play around and train the eye to map those hard data values into abstract shapes and colors.
I hope you'll have fun using Itinerant.