Beyond Gravity

Beyond Gravity

Dana Karwas (l) and Gabriel Winer (r) demo The Satellite's data-driven view of Earth.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

View from the Stars

View from the Stars

The Satellite team is pulling data from many sources to create a real-time perspective of the planet.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Blippar Zooms In

Blippar Zooms In

Alana Kalin demos how the Blippar app adds virtual content to products.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Doing Tricks with Visual Recognition

Doing Tricks with Visual Recognition

When Blippar recognizes a product, ad, or other visual cue, it brings up an augmented view, with additional info, of what it sees.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Making the Web Shoppable

Making the Web Shoppable

Heather Marie, CEO of 72Lux, talks about the launch of Shoppable for Consumers.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Mobile Managment for Construction

Mobile Managment for Construction

Doug Chambers, CEO, said his company FieldLens created an app that helps construction businesses oversee tasks at jobsites.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Getting to Know Your Peers

Getting to Know Your Peers

Marc Cenedella, executive chair of TheLadders, with Scott Gursky demoed his latest company Knozen's app for learning more about friends' and coworkers' personalities.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Putting Wearables to Work

Putting Wearables to Work

Co-founder Shing Wong shows how Syncmotion can turn wearable devices such as a Pebble Watch into a way to track specific exercise movements.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Making Google Business View Virtual

Making Google Business View Virtual

Maureen Eroku's Vosmap takes users on a three-dimensional walk-through inside businesses featured on Google Maps.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Postcards for Causes

Postcards for Causes

CEO Seth Bannon (l) and (r) Peregrine Badger brought Amicus back to the NYTM stage. The Amicus platform includes a feature that lets people mail real postcards that promote nonprofits to selected Facebook friends.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Art from the Web

Art from the Web

Jake Levine (l) and Jacob Bijani (r) showed how Electric Objects can pull in and frame digital art from Web-based sources.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Changing Tastes

Changing Tastes

Electric Objects can quickly put new pieces of digital art, under fair use, on users' walls.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

A Smart Home for Photos

A Smart Home for Photos

NYTM president Nate Westheimer demos for the first time on stage. His PictureLife team developed a cloud-based, easy-to-use platform to store, sort, and share photos.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

The Earth never looked so three-dimensional.

At July’s New York Tech Meetup, the intrepid team from The Satellite showed off their out-of-this-world idea for a real-time, big-screen exhibit that lets people see our planet as if they were looking down from the International Space Station.

The Satellite isn’t a business in the making—it’s an art project, attempting to use data and visual technology to create a new perspective of the planet. But the technical wizardry being employed by project directors Dana Karwas and Gabriel Winer impressed the crowd at this week’s meetup, where it was showcased as the “Hack of the Month” among the other demos (see slideshow above).

Regulars of NYTM, a monthly staple of the New York tech scene, have come to expect the Hack of the Month to be wacky at times. Past examples include Emergency Zack Morris, which played audio clips of the “Saved by the Bell” character when people called a certain number.

But on Tuesday night, things got stellar.

The Satellite’s aim is to combine sensing data and live imagery gathered from space to give people a view that few here on terra firma can experience. “We’re going to create this moment where you can look at outer space from the Earth,” Karwas said.

The team is pulling in data from satellites and other sources, Winer said, which includes details on sunlight, weather, the aurora borealis, polar ice, and live lightning strikes. “We’re building that into a photo-real visualization using a gaming engine that we’re building from scratch,” he said.

How close to reality do they think they can get? Winer said the goal is to get the resolution beyond the perceptual levels of humans. “You wouldn’t be able to see any pixels,” he said. “This would be as real as the image could possibly be.”

At the moment, the team is creating visual layers for land, atmosphere, and reflective effects. “The trickiest part at this stage, in terms of the visualizations, is the clouds,” Winer said. “We’re pulling in live alpha channels of clouds and using those in a generative particle system to develop three-dimensional clouds.” Shaders are then applied to that composite visual data to create the photographic effect in real-time, he said.

All of this is intended be presented like an art installation, designed to enhance the experience. That would include multiple projectors, a spherical screen, and other custom architecture.

Karwas said they are working in partnership with the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering at its Media and Games Network center in Brooklyn. An exhibition is planned for early 2015, she said, at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth.