If you’re a New Yorker who likes to nerd out about maps, urbanism, and data visualization, a new app called Tunnel Vision will be like poetry to your eyes. But even if you’re not into any of those things, it might make dismal waits on subway platforms a little more fun.
When you point your smartphone at any MTA map, Tunnel Vision uses augmented reality to place stories about the city’s population, neighborhoods, and transportation on top of the map. Those are stories that, before the dawn of high-tech data viz, would’ve appeared as piles of boring numbers.
“The app sits at the junction of a few interests of mine: computer vision, data visualization, and the subway,” says Bill Lindmeier, who created the app for his graduate thesis at NYU’s ITP program. “My initial motivation was to create a portrait of New York through data.”
Tunnel Vision uses six primary data sets, viewable on the app as visualizations in different distinct modes. This includes:
The Official Schedule: the estimated position of every train in the system, based on the MTA’s GTFS formatted trip data. Trains represented as colored dots inch along the tracks like Pac-Men.
Turnstile activity: the number of people coming in and out of each station, based on a year’s worth of historical data from the MTA. It lets you see the estimated number of people in the system at a given time–which serves an average of 8,552,646 riders a day.
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