(A sci-fi influenced physical representation of a sustainable future)

In emerging research and design practice, science fiction narratives are progressively being used as modes of predicting alternate futures. PrecogNation uses geometric 3D printed poly-masks as real-time sci-fi future forecasters – A  web-connected physical representation that will contribute and illuminate to the sustainable possibilities of the future.


Materials & Methods

As the main physical representation of this project I have chosen to use three geometric 3D printed masks that are wirelessly connected to the Internet via an Arduino Yún – hence the title of the project PrecogNation (A sci-fi influenced physical representation of a sustainable future). 

The masks were printed using a Zortrax 3D Printer and white Z-ABS filament. The mask is a remixed version of Stephen Kongsle’s “Low Poly Mask” ( Each mask took approximately 16 hours to print. The masks are constantly scraping data from Twitter in real-time via Temboo choreos. Temboo assigns special API keys for Arduino devices that allow the user grab real-time data from Twitter that would otherwise be difficult to gather. That live data is then fed to the Arduino Yún, which illuminates a specific 10mm super bright LED, connected to the masks.


Final Outcomes

These geometric poly-masks are real-time sci-fi future forecasters – A physical representation that contribute and illuminate to the sustainable possibilities of the future. Each mask represents a type of speculative forecasting data.

Why the geometric faces?

Masks can symbolize many things. Throughout history masks were mostly believed to denote social status or have magical and religious powers. But many also believed that masks had (and still do have) the ability to create a bridge to a future world – that by putting a mask on ones face you are physically transforming not only your appearance, but also your own consciousness through the context of space and time. When you put on a mask you become someone else, and these masks work as not only representations of data, but as a physical wearable that stimulates the mind into a different state of being. Included with the masks is a tree made from wire. This tree acts as a brain for the Precogs and represents the constant war between man and nature.

I chose these three geometric faces as my Precogs for three reasons. Firstly, they represent a future that is striving for perfection, the terrifying perfection of a self-obsessed society infatuated with self-image, outsider approval of perfect physicality, and the distraction that that type of perfection elicits from the real world. These masks remind us that the only perfection we should be striving for is in the field of sustainability. Secondly, I chose these faces to represent all of humanity, a humanity that is dependent on this world for absolutely everything, they represent everything on earth we take for granted and all that we forget to appreciate. Finally, the masks represent the ability to look into the future, or in other words these masks act as physical Precogs. When the masks are activated, whether from data or from being worn, it is my hope that they will somehow provoke forward thinking and illuminate the importance of a sustainable future.

One of the largest challenges in representing this overload of data physically was finding the correct terms and/or keywords that activate a specific color/thought in the Precog’s faces. The three colors present in the faces are scraping the twitterverse (I use twitter for the fact that it is the most accurate source of real-time data and news) for terms relating to sustainability, environmental threats, and political involvement. PrecogNation has its very own Twitter account, which allows the masks to scan through data specifically submitted by sustainability related users, corporations, and initiatives.



Green – Progress in sustainability (renewable energy, clean energy, clean coal, carbon captures, water and energy efficiency, hydrogen fusion, immune system defense, clean tech, clean R&D, thin film solar technology, wind turbines, water treatment, ultra filtration, wireless electrical output). I am also scraping for terms relating to sustainability initiatives branded by large corporations and industry leaders that are striving toward a sustainable future. (All terms are trademarked and include: (Ecomagination, Movement Planner, United Group Rail, GEnx, Proficy, Brilliant Wind, ZeeWeed, Lightgrid, Predictivity).

Arduino Code – String progress = “progress”; String energy = “renewable+energy”; String clean = “clean+energy”;String cleancoal = “clean+coal”; String carbon = “carbon+captures”; String waterefficiency = “water+efficiency”; String efficient = “energy+efficient”; String immunity = “immune+system+defense”; String wind = “wind+turbines”; String solar = “solar+technology”; String film = “thin+film”; String eco = “ecomagination”; String proficy = “proficy”;


Red – Threats to sustainability (deforestation, global warming, record heat, pollution, melting polar icecaps, rising sea levels, extinction, overpopulation, loss of biodiversity, extinction, bee and bat decline, pandemics, biological/nuclear terrorism, super volcanic eruption, asteroids.)

Arduino Code – String threats = “threats”; String climate = “climate+change”; String deforestation = “deforestation”; String globalwarming = “global+warming”; String heat = “record+heat”; String pollution = “pollution”;String terror = “bio+terrorism”; String melting = “melting+polar”; String extinction = “extinction”; String sea = “sea+levels”;String volcanic = “volcanic+eruption”; String bee = “bee+decline”; String bat = “bat+decline”;String loss = “loss+biodiversity”;

IMG_0597 copy

Blue – Overload of Data (confliction and contradiction of terms that have been stated above). The overload of data in the colorblue works like this… say the word ‘polar’ is found, but then the words ‘melting-polar’ are found, followed by the words ‘polar bear.’ This is an unreadable thread of information – its not really giving us threats or progress related to sustainability so the face reflects the color blue to signify that confusion. Coming up with the correct terms to represent the overload of information was especially tricky, and writing the code to reflect that confusion was equally as challenging. I eventually found a series of key words and demands that elicited the response I was hoping for in this category.

Arduino Code – String overload = “overload”; String c02 = “c02 emmisions”; String forest = “forest”; String global = “global”; String coal = “coal”;String water = “water”; String warming = “warming”; String polar = “polar”; String pollute = “pollute”; String biological = “biological”; String volcano = “volcano”; String terrorism = “terrorism”; String bees = “bees”;String bats = “bats”; String biodiversity = “biodiversity”; String floods = “floods”; String immune = “immune”;

It is important to highlight the fact that although the colors red and blue may be perceived as negative (and usually appear more than the color green), they also mean that there are discussions about those negative sustainability issues happening every time those colors are activated. This is in fact a positive outcome, as one of the main goals of this project is to highlight the importance maintaining a dialogue – even if that dialogue surrounds daunting threats to sustainability. It is important that the masks provoke a highlighted continuation of focus surrounding social and political sustainability issues.

Three’s Company


As I’m sure you’ve noticed this project has many features represented in trilogies – 3 faces, 3 colors, and below the 3 types of data that I believe are vital when surveying the overwhelming arena of science fiction and sustainability. This trend of threes was first inspired by the “three pillars of sustainability”[1] – the three pillars of sustainability are a helpful and powerful tool for examining issues and solutions revolving around earth’s current sustainability problem – and the masks are constantly scraping data from these three realms. These realms consist of the social, environmental, and economic pillars. If any of the three pillars are at any time weakened, the whole system is at risk for failure. Below are two popular diagrams that display the three pillars, and below them the three times of data that the masks represent.

Past Data – Signifies all of the previous predictions that have come to reality from historical science fiction films and literature.

Present Data (Overload of Data) – Surveying economic and social-political boundaries. The amount of data gathered throughout this research project has been staggering, and if I have learned one thing throughout this process it is that the data in our currents society promoting a sustainable future is overwhelming, and that is great news.

Future Data – Ecological and environmental issues – When thinking of the future of planet earth there are usually 2 common outcomes we imagine – Utopian or Dystopian. A utopian future may have sustainable living, infinite food sources, flying autonomous cars, and a perfect government. Where as a Dystopian future usually involves a mad max style landscape with extreme weather, overpopulation, depleted resources, and complete government takeover of society.ThreePillars_Wikipedia

The most valuable aspect to this device was surveying the threats to sustainability category. While combing through the results of my future-forecaster’s data, the majority of the “threats” tagged were in some way or another related to rapid population growth. This was not surprising, as more people equal fewer resources. But unlike earths past extinctions, our great threat of population growth is more of a process than an episode, and the full results of this process won’t be know for decades to come. This is more of a blessing than a curse, as it allows us ample time to find solutions. The commonality between Bio-diversity loss, global climate change, and the depletion of earth’s resources are that they are all a human-induced phenomenons. Because of this, our planet could enter into a new geological epoch in just a few years. Population growth enhances the extent and scale to which the human enterprise functions, and hence increases the likelihood that what irreversible damage we have caused will push biotic and native nonhuman populations past critical thresholds of renewal and tolerance. But if we continue to fight for a sustainable future, we could instead turn this massive loss of biodiversity into a manageable depletion. This would no doubt leave regrettable economic and scientific losses – but still retain the basic services of major ecosystems intact.

As my research has shown, the distribution of human population growth in years to follow will be a dominant factor in determining whether the damage we have done, will either cause a global catastrophe, or merely be a source of wistful regret for future generations. We hope it will be the latter.

Mod_4_Image_4_earth_NASAThrough all of my research and data gathered I have attempted to narrow the overload of information down and have discovered many common trends and predictions. The most valuable of these predictions lead to the argument that the hopes of a sustainable future will depend on these two things:

  • The world will be powered exclusively by hydrogen fusion. This would eliminate the need for drilling and greatly reduce c02 emissions.
  • We will master interstellar space travel and the ability to colonize new planets. As far fetched as it may seem, this is one of the only legitimate solutions to the serious overpopulation issue that is no doubt – the main threat to our fragile planet.

So how do the colors work? It’s quite simple – if the word “pollution”(which would elicit the color red) gets tagged 16 times and the term “renewable energy”(green) gets tagged 18 times…  the faces will reflect the latter and display the color green.

The overload of data in the color blue is a little trickier. Say the word polar is found, but then the words melting-polar are found, followed by the words polar bear. This is an unreadable thread of information – its not really giving us threats or progress related to sustainability so the face reflects the color blue to signify that confusion. Coming up with the correct terms to represent the overload of information was especially tricky, and writing the code to reflect that confusion was equally as challenging.  I eventually found a series of singled out key words and demands that elicited the response I was hoping for in this category.