Isoscope is a data visualisation project that allows you to see how far you could travel from any given spot, depending on the time you have available, the time of day, and the day of the week.
It was created in collaboration with HERE by three students – Flavio Gortana, Martin von Lupin and Sebastian Kaim, at Potsdam University in Germany, under the supervision of Till Nagel, an expert in geovisualisation.
As you would imagine, the cool, organic shapes that show your potential reach are created by querying the HERE APIs for road speeds and traffic conditions, by time and day. Then it creates a time-slice isochrone map.
See your limits
It depends where you live, but city-dwellers will note the big differences in travel possibilities between different times and days.
Here are my choices at 9pm Sunday, travelling from my office in central London.
And here is how they are reduced if I turn the clock forward to 9am on Monday. Ugh, traffic.
Screenshots don’t really communicate the fluidity and playfulness of the interface, though. Go ahead and take a look at where your day could take you on the tool’s site.
Nothing wrong with toys
Why would this be useful? Well, in part it doesn’t really matter. Till Nagel told us that the tool “is designed to inspire curiosity about the world around us.” But one potential use could be working out where would be a good place to live if you don’t want a long commute. Or vice-versa – whether that prospective new job is just too far away.
Till stresses the playful nature of Isoscope. “It’s a way of communicating how people move around in a city, and how they could move around, in a way that’s more understandable and graspable. We were trying to allow a playful exploration and make it very accessible.”
“The organic, curved shapes help to do that, and also give the people who use it a subtle cue that the information isn’t 100 per-cent precise. Because, how could it be?”
Provoking a discussion over how it works and the extent of its accuracy is a measure of the success of the project, says Till. And in this, it has certainly succeeded. The Atlantic called it “A striking new way to visualise mobility.” Fast Company said, “It puts the limits of urban mobility on display.” While Gizmodo described it as, “an interesting take on other commute maps.”
Future iterations or variations on Isoscope might see a move to mobile, a way of indexing the mobility of cities, and a split-screen version that allows you to compare the mobility of different areas.
For now, though, let’s just have fun with the original. But how would you like to see the idea extended?