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Making of Push Snowboarding Data-Vis

I just finished my take on the data of Push Snowboarding and this post will get a bit into the details of how and why. For details about this project have a look at the official website.

Let’s start off with having a look at the final result

Okay how did we end up here, step by step:

The data

When looking at the data offered by the Push Snowboarding Website you can easily be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of several thousand sensor outputs for just a single ride of a couple of minutes. Also there are a lot of different sensors available, some sampled by various internal (Nokia N8) and external sensors: GPS position, acceleration, compass, gyroscope, heart rate, rush and foot pressure.

So my first thought was that I had to stay focused and concentrate on a meaningful subset of the sensor data and try to capture a certain aspect of the ride the data represents.

When looking at the videos it dawned on me that it’s all about snowboarding. A fun sport, one that isn’t only athletically challenging but also features a huge amount of beautiful artistry. So why not use the data to capture this beauty in some way? As I have some experience with generative design I decided to proceed this way.

The visualization

The next step was to decide on which data fits this approach best. As its about the experience of the ride I decided to start from the GPS coordinates of the ride and enrich it with the speed, rush, and heart rate.

The most obvious thing is the path of the ride. You can see it curve down. No explanation needed there.

While the particles run down the track they sometimes spread out and orbit around the track path. This happens when the speed falls below a certain threshold. So if the rider stops the particles start buzzing around just to immediately rush back to the path when the rider is speeding up again.

Particles orbiting at the start of the track just before the rider departs

Particles orbiting at the start of the track just before the rider departs

The riders heart is pumping and he is sweating like hell

The riders heart is pumping and he is sweating like hell

The last remaining data being rush and heart rate are combined into color. The higher the heart rate the more red and the higher the rush the more blue is spread alongside the path. If heart rate and rush are high at the same time this leads to this purple-pinkish hue. If the rider is totally relaxed you won’t see any color at all.

Calmly speeding down the hill

Calmly speeding down the hill

Use cases

As nice as this may look – what is this image good for? I can imagine a vast variety of applications. Let me just outline some:

You are on a marvelous ski holiday or even taking part in a race. But when it’s over it’s over and you wish you had a visual souvenir of that experience. So why not just print the visualization of your data on a canvas and hang it right on the wall in your living room?

Or why not give tribute to the mobile phone that helped you collect the data in the first place – use the image as wallpaper for your mobile phone:

Finally my personal favorite: Why not even print it on a snowboard that you can use later on to collect the data for even more amazing snowboarding visualizations.

I hope you like my approach. Even if not feel free to let me know by commenting below. By then I am really looking forward to the other contest entries and how they made use of the data.