Design TED Fellows

Explore exoplanets with a wave: A collaboration to visualize Kepler data

Posted by: Emily McManus

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Wired UK brings news of a fascinating collaboration to explore data from NASA’s Kepler mission, which has brought back evidence of thousands of exoplanets, or planets outside our own solar system. Some exoplanets are huge, some tiny, near or distant, hot or cold — and some may even be Earth-like, offering clues to the origin and existence of biological life. It’s a truly inspiring dataset:

Data artist Jer Thorp wanted to bring Kepler’s discoveries to life, so he hooked up with John Underkoffler, the inventor who built the gesture-based g-speak spatial operating environment showcased in the 2002 film Minority Report. “I was curious what these planets actually looked like,” says Thorp. “How big, how hot, what they were made of.”

“It was such a deliciously spatial dataset that it cried out for gestural control,” says Underkoffler. So over five days in May, the duo created Exo, an immersive g-speak interface at Oblong Industries’ Los Angeles studio.

Check out many more images in the Wired UK story >>

Meanwhile, learn more about Kepler from two TEDTalks. One talk was given by Dimitar Sasselov while results were still coming in: “How we found hundreds of potential Earth-like planets.” Then last summer, TED Fellow Lucianne Walkowicz gave a quick primer in “Finding planets around other stars.”

And while you are at it, watch these talks from the two data collaborators as well:

Jer Thorp: Make data more human >>
John Underkoffler: Pointing to the future of UI >>

Top photo: James Duncan Davidson. Bottom photo: Wired UK.