Curious about the invisible Wi-Fi that surround us--and we either take for granted or curse, depending on the day--artist Nickolay Lamm decided to create renderings that visualize the signals.

To best approximate the Wi-Fi waves, Lamm received help from M. Browning Vogel, an astrophysicist and former NASA employee.

“We use Wi-Fi so many times a day but don’t really know how it works or the complexity of the technology,” Lamm says.

The rainbow-hued results call to mind long-exposure light photography, or heat radiating off the pavement.

The illustrations could also be a meta twist on our digital dependencies and the advent of augmented reality: “It makes people look at the National Mall, and other places, from a new perspective," Lamm says.

Co.Design

If We Could See Wi-Fi, Washington, D.C., Would Look Like This

An artist makes Wi-Fi appear in our nation’s capital--and us pay attention to both invisible forces and the real world.

Depending on where you are right now, chances are you’re either taking Wi-Fi access for granted, or cursing a device for failing to deliver on-the-fly data. But whether Wi-Fi signals are playing the hero or the villain, they still exist, at least in some crucial but imaginary and invisible realm.

“We use Wi-Fi so many times a day but don’t really know how it works or the complexity of the technology,” says artist Nickolay Lamm, who decided to take on that ignorance by imagining what the National Mall in Washington D.C. would look like if we could see Wi-Fi signals. Lamm tells Co.Design that he created the renderings purely to satisfy his own curiosity. But the spherical energy fields in his illustrations were designed with the help of M. Browning Vogel, an astrophysicist and former NASA employee.

To best approximate the looks and sizing of the signals, Lamm consulted a map of wireless coverage in the D.C. area, and extrapolated that information to imagine the waves in the third dimension. The results resemble long exposure light photography, or in some instances, mid-summer heat radiating off pavement (a phenomenon not unfamiliar in our nation’s sweltering capital this year).

In an era of Google Glass and a rising landscape of augmented and alternative reality, perhaps Lamm’s work is an effective way of using our digital dependencies to draw our attention back to the real world: “It makes people look at the National Mall, and other places, from a new perspective.”

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3 Comments

  • ojonegro

    "...extrapolated that information to imagine the waves in the third dimension." This is no different than throwing paint carelessly on to a canvas. There's no scientific method or background to this type of art. Somebody should do this, but with actual signals, infographics, not just rainbow waves over a pond. Come on, Fast Co, you're better than that.