Turn an NYC Subway Map Into an Augmented Reality Adventure

Riding through New York City's subway can be a surprisingly solitary pursuit. Waiting on the platform is even worse. That's why creative technologist William Lindmeier built Tunnel Vision, an augmented reality app that uses the subway map as a canvas for displaying public data about the city's residents.


It's beautiful, both for its simplicity and its novelty. Once you download the app (iPhone only) you just open it up and point your phone's camera at any subway map. It doesn't matter if it's a full-sized map in a station or a PDF on your computer screen, the app will recognize it and automatically display a stunning array of visualizations based on MTA and Census data and pegged to the various subway stops. From turnstile activity to rent prices to the real-time positions of trains, you're able to explore the city through the subway. It's extra cool that the app extends the data visualizations beyond the borders of the map.

What's the point? Lindmeier wanted to create "a portrait of New York through data," He told Gizmodo. "I wanted to create an interactive experience that could reveal some stories about the people and the neighborhoods that make up the city."

While Lindmeier's other projects bridge the gap between art, design, and technology, this one—which served as his thesis at NYU's ITP—has an obvious urbanism angle. It's incredible, for instance, to see how median income drops from six-figure sums on the Upper East Side down to about $30,000 in the Bronx within just a couple subway stops. So instead of being lonely while you wait for your train, you can actually learn about your city.

Depending on the availability of data, Lindmeier says he'd like to expand the project to include other cities. "My hope is that the format of the app makes it easier for to explore this stuff in an exciting, intuitive way," said Lindmeier. "The hostage time that we spend waiting for the next train is a perfect opportunity to do that." And in its own way, Tunnel Vision is even more fun that the subway's own attempt at interactive maps. [Tunnel Vision via BuzzFeed]


GIFs by Michael Hession