The V&A Museum in London commissioned Tellart to create an installation for The Future Starts Here, a major exhibition exploring the implications of rapidly evolving technology on our world. Tellart's Terraform Table is a machine-intelligent sand table that invites visitors to shape landscapes and seascapes with their hands. It playfully explores the notion of remodeling the Earth's oceans, coastlines and mountains in response to climate change—or even for terraforming other planets.
As a designer on this project, the main challenge was to design "with" the algorithm and create new design processes and toolsets that allowed for co-creation and custom datasets.
While the resulting landscapes appear continuous and real, they are actually created through the intelligence of a predictive model. A single artificial coastline could contain qualities extracted from hundreds of locations distinct as California, the Persian Gulf and the Japanese Archipelago—a synthesis of “Earthness” intended to spark a new and emotional connection with our planet.
We trained a machine learning algorithm on thousands of real satellite Earth images and corresponding elevation data. Over time, the algorithm “learned” to correlate the height of different landforms (image on left) with their appearance from orbit (right), in order to generate an artificial satellite image (middle).
The Terraform Table runs on custom software that is based on the open-source application Magic Sand, which is in turn based on an augmented-reality sandpit developed by the UC Davis’ W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences.
Over time, the algorithm learned to spot patterns between the shape of landforms and how they look in aerial photography. This is what's known as machine learning.
Tensorflow, Pix2PixHD, python, spout, openFrameworks
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