This Machine Paints the Invisible Wi-Fi Signals All Around You

Thursday October 17, 2019 Written by James

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Imagine a painter by a river with an easel, casting a critical eye over the landscape. Now replace the painter with a robotic arm, and the critical eye with a sophisticated scanner that analyses surrounding wi-fi signals and translates them into complex visual patterns. You can almost hear the poets now…

Welcome to the strange school of ‘Wi-Fi Impressionism’. The man responsible is Dutch artist Richard Vijgen. He built a machine that can turn invisible wi-fi signals into visible works of art. Exactly how the machine works is kind of complicated. Strictly speaking it’s ‘data interpretation’ rather than a data visualization – you’re not literally seeing waves, measurements and data points, more the machine’s interpretation of that raw data.

“I created a mechanical system consisting of a directional antenna mounted on a pan-tilt mechanism,” Richard explains over on It’s Nice That. “This enabled me to pick up wifi signals in real-time and determine where they were coming from. I then wrote some software that controls the antenna, getting to make a full scan of its environment. Based on this scan, the software creates a three dimensional model of its surroundings.”

The little easel and mechanical arm help too. They give the robot a sense of anthropomorphism. Who needs Turner and his storm clouds when you have electromagnetic waves and a handy mechanical plotter.

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