Kraken Sketch

Driving Data Visualization

Lixar I.T. Tech

Tell me how you would visualize a punk show at a punk show, while it’s happening – you know, if you could?

First of all, what would your data look like? Let’s visit the scene of artists like Pup or Hey Rosetta! at Halifax Pop Explosion the week of October 19, 2016 and freeze the frame. You have smoky lights, a crowd that moves like it’s in a strong underwater current, and artists just careeningon their guitars.


Being connected is becoming a 3D experience – it’s jumping out of our computer screens and living inside inanimate objects. We can now connect to the uncaring stage and floor and convert them to smart structures, making them part of the community of things of the Internet (IoT).

You have your data; you’re collecting vibrations coming from the stage and the floor and streaming them to tools like Tableau or Power BI. Some of my first ideas really channelled Guitar Hero (below) but they didn’t quite feel epic enough.

What if we created our own art?

Kraken Sketch

And what if the artists helped fill it in with the energy they created in the room?

Painting with IoT. Data Driven Art.

A disclaimer for those researching Tableau: this is not a typical use of the product. In fact, to get it to work like it did, we pushed it pretty hard.

For this experience, we wanted to shed business best practices and think like an artist. I did, however, keep one my favourite things about dashboards: showing people they had an impact and that what they are doing is working.

And it worked. When the bands became fireworks, we could turn around and see the Kraken come to life.

Data Driven Art 

To explain what it is – the Kraken is made up of 437 polygons in Tableau. You can think of them like puzzle pieces. Each represents 30 seconds of vibration throughout the night; that is over 3 and half hours of entertainment by the time the image is complete. Bright red polygons mean that 30 seconds had more energy than lighter areas of the night.

There’s a whole chain of events that happened before and even after Tableau. A device on the stage picked up vibrational data and sent it to Event Hubs in the cloud, which was then queried by MySQL server database, and then hooked up to Tableau. Once you publish Tableau to the cloud, however, you lose the ability to animate through the polygons.

HPX good vibrations pilot diagram

The Kraken proof-of-concept was an exercise in pushing the tools we have past their limits, and using them in ways we didn’t think about using them before.

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Article written by Laura Grove  |  Data Visualization Specialist