Don’t Mind the Freaky Glowing Cloud in RPA’s Lobby. It’s Just Listening to the Internet

Lights up at client buzz

Ad agency RPA in Santa Monica, Calif., suddenly has quite the conversation starter in its lobby: a data-driven light sculpture called The Listening Cloud that visualizes social-media conversation about the agency's clients in real time.

The cloud listens to the Internet and "storms" with different multicolored lightning, corresponding to the various social-media channels, whenever clients like Honda, La-Z-Boy or Farmers Insurance are mentioned. Red lightning is for Facebook likes; purple is for Instagram mentions; and blue is for Twitter. The cloud glows white during moments of social-media silence.

"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," says 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."

"Custom software pulls in real-time data from the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram public APIs, then sends commands through a wireless bridge to LEDs inside the cloud, visualizing the data through different light colors and behaviors," says the agency. "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. A Web-interface on a nearby monitor lets viewers choose what they'd like the cloud to 'listen to' and also displays a raw, real-time feed of the data it's processing."

The semi-sentient cloud should get together with the Guinness cloud and go out for beers. See the RPA cloud in action in the videos below.