Along the Trail invites you to take a walk around landscapes generated from the data you left on social medias platforms. Exploring these landscapes helps you rediscover past events and forgotten memories stored in remote data centers.
Connecting to your Facebook account, Along the Trail retrieves personal informations such as posts, likes, events and messages. This information is used as the raw material of a collection of landscapes created to represent different aspects of your digital self. Each environment is made of bright elements, avatars of data extracts that can be accessed and read. A simple system of gaze-and-go waypoint enables navigation inside and between these environments, and leaves the time to contemplate and observe one’s surroundings.
HOW IT WORKS
You can choose between a pre-defined account and your Facebook account.
explore John Doe's trail
This is a Facebook profile made from data gathered from our team members. No internet connection or Facebook app is needed for the John Doe's profile.
explore your own trail
Tapping on this option brings up a new menu. From there, you can either send us an email to become a tester or connect your account to Along the Trail if you've already been added (to understand why you need to be added as a Facebook tester first, read the CONNECTING WITH YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT section. below).
Along the Trail connects to the Facebook Graph API and gathers all the data needed at the beginning of each experience. It is not shared nor kept during, after or between sessions.
REPRESENTING AND READING THIS DATA
The density of boxes is linked to the number of posts a user has on his wall.
Each of the 4 landscapes that Along the Trail is made of generates itself in part according to those datasets. By varying the position, scale and number of objects, a landscape becomes unique to an account and a kind of portrait as a landscape.
A narrator follows the user from the beginning to the end of the experience. His role is to explain what the user sees and give just enough clues for him to understand what he is seeing. This way, most of the text that a user will get to see is his own data.
When n information is contained inside a shape, this shape is bright, colorful and lively. Gazing at it brings up the data it contains. On the contrary, the ground is monochrome, dark and still. It doesn't hold any data, and does not depend on the person's data.
When looking straight at one box, the content that was used to generate it is extracted and shown.
Among the 4 landscapes, each also has its own atmosphere and metaphor. As the viewer progresses in Along the Trail, the environments s/he walks through get smaller, darker and more organic. This is to mirror the data getting more and more personal, with the last landscape (a kind of underwater cave) showing intimate data gathered from personal messages. In this cave the sky is absent and the objects around her/him are within reach while some of them glow and swim randomly.
The medusa-like shapes of the last landscape. Their number, movements and the text they hold depends on private messages gathered according to various topic.
To explore the environments of Along the Trail, we rely on a set of waypoints activated by looking directly at them and tapping on the Gear VR's touchpad. These waypoints enable the player to move along a predetermined path. For an earlier project, we experimented with free movements in an environment but it didn't work the way we would have liked: we discovered that first-time users of VR preferred to be guided in their movements while they could look all around them.
Moving to a waypoint is made with a single tap on the touchpad. Since this action can be difficult and breaks a bit the immersion, we reduced the number of taps to a bare minimum: Along the Trail can be crossed in less than 10 taps over a period of 5 minutes.
Some data-objects are activated upon gazing at them while others need an additional tap to reveal their content. They are easy to spot in the dark desaturated spaces, but they also trigger a change of the cursor's color when hovered.
An example of colorful objects in a dark sphere, as seen in one of the spheres of the final landscape.
We use VR to visualize data in non-traditional ways: we focus on immersing people in data landscapes rather than on optimizing visual representations for specific analytic tasks. By doing so, we create new engaging experiences of interaction with data.
Along the Trail literally places people within the masses of data they accumulate through online social interactions. These data are precious and say a lot about an individual, but people rarely get to explore them. Along the Trail materializes these data in unexpected ways, which enhance curiosity and trigger a sense of wonder.
In addition, a VR headset places the user in a confined and intimate space. S/he gets to be the only one to live this experience while others can only guess what is happening at the expression of one's face, which is an important aspect of Along the Trail.
Finally, since the data is reloaded from an account at the beginning of each experience, the different landscapes that a person's data generates evolve in parallel to her/his life. Actions on her/his life will affect the experience, which creates a feedback loop between the data and its author.
CONNECTING WITH YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT
This is a beta version of our app and it is currently undergoing Facebook's review process (which can take up to 7 days). When the review is finished, anybody will be able to connect his account to the app, directly from the smartphone. But for now, if you want to explore your own data, you will need to be added to the Testers list. Please send us an email with your Facebook account name here to be added to this list: (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Facebook app needs to be installed (it is already by default on the Gear VR's smartphone). When connecting from Along the Trail to Facebook, a text will tell you to remove the smartphone when appropriate and accept Facebook's permission prompt. Start the app again and you should be good to explore your trail!
This project was made by Louis Eveillard, Ferdinand Dervieux, Jérémie Lasnier and Aby Batti at Panoptic Lab, a group of designers and developers working together between Paris and San Francisco. Project page: panoptic-lab.com/alongthetrail