Edinburgh Science Festival
Events, Science Communications, Visitor Attractions, Testimonials
Edinburgh Science Festival attracts science enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds to engage with science in exciting ways. This year, when we learnt about the DataSphere exhibition, we were sure that Pufferfish had to be a part of it. Turns out the sentiment was mutual!
Edinburgh Science Festival is the first public celebration of science and technology in the world and currently one of Europe’s largest science festivals. The scientific revolution is a significant part of Edinburgh’s history and the science festival celebrates this by encouraging audiences of all ages and backgrounds to engage with science in innovative and exciting ways.
This year, on its full return to live events, the festival was themed 2022 Revolutions, celebrating revolutions in science, industry, data and climate, that have helped us understand ourselves and our planet a lot better.
Within this theme lies a call for individuals, corporations, and states to critically assess their attitudes to the climate crisis.
Pufferfish is fortunate to have originated from a city at the heart of the European enlightenment, and exploring our world in new and exciting ways is at the forefront of what we do. As long time fans of the Edinburgh Science Festival, we were excited to learn about an exhibition titled Datasphere. All indications pointed to the fact that we had to be a part of it, for one, the name DataSphere is coincidentally descriptive of our spherical displays.
Just like Edinburgh Science, we look to challenge and encourage people of all ages to be curious about the world around them. As we also look to strengthen our local relationships, there was no better stage for us.
Photo Credit: Ian Georgeson
We reached out to the Science Festival team with a proposal for a science communications space at the festival, so they were keen to see what we had to offer. After visiting our HQ and experiencing the display for themselves, the question was no longer if we would be at the Edinburgh Science Festival, but what we required to get us there.
DataSphere formed one of the two main interactive exhibitions at this year’s event.
This tremendously insightful exhibition showcased the ubiquity and immensity of data that exists in systems that we interact with in our everyday lives. From the data that exists within us, to the data that’s gathered about us, visitors were invited to explore our collective reliance on data and the systems that collect our data.
We decided to create a special application for the festival. The objective was to present a range of datasets that revealed different important aspects of global data. To achieve this, we collected some of the best publicly available datasets. Some of these were animations created by leading institutions like NASA, GPPD, NOAA, and UK MetOffice, others were Pufferfish original visualisations from public data. These included the IPCC data that formed the basis of delegations at the COP 26 summit in Glasgow.
We transformed the IPCC data into a visualisation that allowed users to toggle between 1.5ºC and 4ºC scenarios to see a visual representation of the impact that the varying scenarios would have on our planet.
The transformation of the IPCC data was made possible with Application Builder, our software that helps to quickly and easily create spherical display applications, allowing rapid generation of simple menus systems, interfaces and data credits, keys and timelines.
It was important to make the data easy to navigate and interact with, this influenced the design decision of making a simple menu system - big buttons and large clear icons. Each data visualisation also had a clear description and key to intuitively guide each user’s experience. We broke the data sets down into topic areas that would resonate with users. These topic areas were Climate Change, IPCC Data, Energy, Human Planet, Living Planet, Oceans, and Weather. A total of 42 individual datasets.
To achieve our goal of creating a transformative learning space within DataSphere, we needed to select the right display system, taking into consideration the nature of the festival, the audience, location, and type of data to be showcased.
The Datasphere was located in the gallery of the National Museum of Scotland, a concourse that is constantly flooded with natural light. This would usually present some difficulty for projection of any kind.
To mitigate this challenge, we selected the latest in our PufferTouch® range, the PufferTouch 3. Our newest, brightest and most powerful display was built to thrive in challenging environments. With a 4K UHD display and projector brightness of 12,000 lumens, it provides enough brightness for bright, clear and crisp visuals, even in spaces with natural light present.
The PufferTouch® 3 is also a toughie. For a festival that draws a high footfall, where there’s constant tinkering with installations by visitors, and the need to stay running for long hours, the PufferTouch 3 stood perfect with its tough acrylic 600mm screen and sturdy hardwood enclosure.
Setting up and dismantling the PufferTouch® 3 unit took less than an hour each time. Assembling this unit required little energy and effort from the team, and the best part? We achieved a small feat of dismantling the unit at an earlier event and setting it up at the National Museum on the same day.
The culmination of our efforts was a key part of the DataSphere exhibition that people could take something from regardless of their age. The installation was a people magnet that had visitors flocking to the sphere, initially drawn from a distance by the attractive visualisation, then hooked by the information in these visualisations.
We achieved our goal of creating a transformative learning experience with a tactile piece that roused curiosity, facilitated exploration, and stimulated discussion amongst visitors to Datasphere. The installation made an excellent addition to DataSphere by presenting crucial data in a way that was engaging, intuitive and impactful to a wide demographic.
As a charity, Edinburgh Science is only able to create the inspiring workshops, shows, exhibitions and events that we do because of our supporters. As well as financial support, gifts in kind also enable our work. We were so grateful to Pufferfish for providing us with the content that they created for this year’s Edinburgh Science Festival. It really brought the Datasphere exhibition in the Grand Gallery of the National Museum of Scotland alive for so many people.
Hannah Schlesinger, Director of Development and Marketing, Edinburgh Science
The PufferTouch sphere was an eye-catching addition to the DataSphere exhibition during the 2022 Edinburgh Science Festival. Visitors of all ages loved playing with the sphere; viewing global datasets with the interactive screen offered a unique way for people to explore our data-filled world.
Andrew Jenkins, Events Developer, Edinburgh Science
The visualisations on our sphere would not be possible without a dedicated community of researchers and climate scientists working assiduously to collect and model data which can be presented in so many different ways to people of different ages and academic backgrounds.
We are also proud of our in house designers, developers and GIS specialists who worked hand in hand with the SciFest team to bring our ideas to fruition.