Invisible Network Device Reveals Machines' Social Network

This portable device makes the invisible and autonomous communications of machines perceptible and tangible.

To get a better understanding of the ecosystem of networks, Wi-Fi in particular, ECAL (Ecole cantonale d'art Lausanne) University of Art and Design student Evan Kelly developed a portable device that visualizes a machines' social network of sorts.

"Invisible Network is a portable device that makes the invisible and autonomous communications of machines perceptible and tangible. The way they interact with each other is akin to human communication modes, thus creating an entire social network of machines," Kelly describes. "This device mediates between users and the machines around them. Via the screen, it transmits fragments of its continuous and silent communications in the form of human social metaphors."

To 'see' those communications between machines on their social networks, Kelly designed his Wibot device (or mediator), which features an ESP Lolin D32 microcontroller and a 250 x 122 ePaper display, powered by a 3.7V LiPo battery, and packed into a 3D-printed enclosure. The display shows the relations that it maintains in an environment and communicates it in a human-like manner. For example, it can inform users of the number of Wi-Fi networks it has encountered, how many times it has 'seen' a familiar network, or those it has just 'met.'

In a similar social network fashion, each Wi-Fi network is classified as acquaintances, friends, close friends, and best friends, depending on how many times Wibot has connected to that particular network. Each Wi-Fi network also has its own unique visual generated based on its metric data, including Mac address, name, power, geolocation, and more.

Additionally, the Wibot provides two visualization modes, with one using an interactive map, allowing users to consult in real-time all of the crossed Wi-Fi networks, each with its physical address. Users can even visualize the networks on a timeline and see their communication densities on a timescale.

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