If our eyes were capable of detecting wi-fi signals, what would they look like? With the wi-fi knowledge of M. Browning Vogel, Ph.D., artist Nickolay Lamm created these visualizations of the possible colors and shapes of wi-fi waves as they travel through the atmosphere.
“I feel that by showing what wi-fi would look like if we could see it, we’d appreciate the technology that we use everyday. A lot of us use technology without appreciating the complexity behind making it work.” – Nickolay Lamm
Below each of the illustrations, Vogel, an astrobiologist and former employee at NASA Ames, provides an explanation of wi-fi science that served as the artist’s inspiration for each of the concept images.
“Wifi waves travel through space as rapid, data encoded pulses or waves. A freeze frame of these pulses would show that the pulses are about 6 inches apart (as shown by the lightly colored bands traveling through space in this image). Wifi routers are basically antenna that can send data over multiple frequencies all at the same time. These multiple frequencies are shown as blue, green, yellow, and red colors that pervade the space around the mall. The data from these multiple frequencies swirls around in space as shown here, but can be translated using a common tag system understood by wireless devices.”
“Wifi routers affixed to buildings, lamp posts and other object create a circular data field around them. These antenna have an omnidirectional signal that extends equally in all directions, shown as the circular bands. Wifi broadcasts at a frequency between radio and microwaves, meaning that the waves or pulses are about six inches apart, as shown by the colored, circular bands.”
“Wifi is an energy field that is transmitted as waves. The waves have a certain height, distance between them and travel at a certain speed. The distance between wifi waves is shorter than that of radio waves and longer than that of microwaves, giving wifi a unique transmission band that can’t be interrupted by other signals. Wifi waves are about 3 to 5 inches from crest to crest. The crests of waves is translated to a 1 by a computer, and the the troughs equal a 0. Chains of 1s and 0s that can be translated into the letters, numbers and codes that make up websites, email and other internet content. Typical wifi waves decrease in amplitude as they travel further from the source which is why the waves are larger to the right and smaller to the left, assuming the source is somewhere near the right of the image. This image shows an idealized wifi data transmitted over a band that is divided into different sub-channels, which are shown in red, yellow, green and other colors.”
“An idealized wifi data transmitted over a band that is divided into different sub-channels, which are shown in red, yellow, green and other colors.”
“Wifi routers or antenna can be attached to trees, buildings, lamp posts and other structures. A typical outdoor router can project its signal 300 feet or more from its location. Objects such as trees can obstruct the signal such that it has to be augmented by multiple wifi routers placed in different positions. Multiple routers can create a field that extends all the way across Washington DC’s National Mall as shown here.”