Invisible Network – A ‘social network’ for the machines

Created by Evan Kelly at ECAL (Media and Interaction Design BA) ‘Invisible Network’ is a portable device that makes communication between machines perceptible and tangible. This device acts as a mediator between the user and the machines that surround him. Through its screen, it indicates the relations that it maintains with its personal environment.

In our daily environment, electronic devices, such as our phones, computers or any other connected devices, communicate with each other, non-stop, invisibly and autonomously with their environment. It can be difficult to realize that our devices communicate with other machines without any human input.

The way these devices interact with each other is similar to human modes of communication. These communication protocols have been designed to mimic our modes of communication. For example, when two machines meet we talk about handshake. We can therefore imagine that just like us, each machine has its own personal social environment. We can then talk about a real social network of machine. A network that we cannot perceive.

Evan Kelly

The objective of the project is to make people aware of the existence of this density of communication and interaction of machines in the form of human social metaphors and thus create a new way of understanding the ecosystem of networks, and Wi-Fi in particular. A web platform makes it possible to interfere in the intimacy of the device in the form of a social network, while an edition transcribes the amount of information listed.

The project consists of three different supports. A physical device, a web platform and a print edition.

The device, called Wibot, is the central element of the project. It is a small object with an e-paper screen. As it is an open source project, anyone can build it. You need to print 3 parts for the shell, electronics and it has been designed to be transportable and to accompany us in our daily lives.

The device acts as a mediator between the user and the machines around him. By means of its screen, it indicates the relations that it maintains with its personal environment. It gives us information that is not normally accessible. It communicates with a familiar tone, giving it a human side. For example, it can inform us of the number of Wi-Fi networks, how many times it has seen one today or since first met it. If it has made a new acquaintance, if little or no new Wi-Fi is visible, it may get bored, alternatively be more chatty.

Wibot is totally autonomous, you can neither turn it on nor off. It consumes very little energy. A web platform to which we can connect allows us to interfere in the intimacy of the device. This web platform can be considered as Wibot’s social network. Each Wi-Fi encountered by Wibot is listed on the site. They are considered here as contacts. As in any social network, a social hierarchy is set up.

The Wi-Fi met by Wibot are classified by “acquaintances”, “friends”, “close friends” and “best friends” according to the number of times they have communicated together.

Each Wi-Fi has its own visual generated according to its data (Mac address, name, power, geolocation …) Each of its images is unique and acts as a fingerprint. Two data visualization modes are available. On an interactive map, it is possible to consult in real time all the crossed Wi-Fi networks. Each of its Wi-Fi has its own physical address. You can also visualize these Wi-Fi networks on a timeline, which allows you to see the density of communications on a time scale.

A print edition was made to represent the amount of data recorded by Wibot. It is a directory of Wi-Fi networks. Like a phone book, each Wi-Fi and its address are listed.

Hardware includes a 250 x 122 Lolin Epaper display, ESP Lolin D32 Pro, 3.7V Li-Po battery, i2C Wemos cable, 2×10 screws and a 3D Printer for the shell. Software is Arduino, Firebase, GyrOSC, Google Maps API and HTML / CSS / Javascript for the website. Project relies on the following libraries: Mobzit – Firebase ESP8266, ESP8266WiFi, ZinggJM – GxEPD and hideakitai – ArduinoOSC.

Project Page | ECAL

Project by ECAL/Evan Kelly
Tutors: Alain Bellet, Gael Hugo, Christophe Guignard, Laura Perrenoud, Pauline Saglio
Assistants : Callum Ross, Pierry Jaquillard, Pietro Alberti, Sébastien Matos
ECAL / University of Art and Design, Lausanne Switzerland
Bachelor Media & Interaction Design
Images by Gianni Camporota


One thought on “Invisible Network – A ‘social network’ for the machines

  1. Great project. Love the minimality and portability. The interface and timeline feature seems so enjoyable, wish I could see it in action! It also seems to be heavily inspired by Pwnagotchi! Well done!

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