RPA’s Listening Cloud reacts to social media conversation with light

The creative and tech team at the ad agency RPA have developed an unprecedented sculpture, the Listening Cloud, which visualizes social media buzz around their clients’ brands across social-media channels. Looking like a real fluffy cloud, the data-driven installation responds in real time to the tweets, hashtags, likes or comments on the brands with various light effects.

The impressive cloud is installed under the ceiling in the lobby of RPA. The magic of the sculpture is provided by innovative technology that sources data from the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram public APIs and sends impulses to the LEDs through the wireless connection inside the cloud . This activates various light colors (blue for Twitter mention, red for Facebook likes, and Purple for Instagram) and behaviors that make the cloud look like a quite natural, “breathing” object. “It uses the Phillips Hue lighting system and its RESTful API, which allowed software to be coded using Node.js to communicate with the lighting controller,” the agency explains.

The cloud can be programmed to react to social media impressions around some particular brand. One can use the web-interface on a monitor near the cloud to select what the cloud should be monitoring. The list of mentions and likes as they are, in real-time are displayed on the screen. In fact, the cloud can react to social media buzz not on commercial brands only—it is also able to monitor the conversation around any hashtag or news story, person or country, game or event.

“We wanted to build something that could show what’s happening in the social media ‘cloud’ in real-time, not as data or a visualization on a screen, but as a fun, sensory, physical thing,” said Perrin Anderson, Creative Director at RPA. “We hope that others will share their ideas on the marriage of creativity and data by using the hashtag #ListeningCloud on their social accounts.”

The Listening Cloud at RPA is just a prototype—the agency plans to further improve and enhance the creation. The team also invites the international community of creative engineers to join in and build their own versions of the cloud. The components and “how-to” guide on building and coding a custom-made installation can be found here.