“A minimally beautiful UI that perfectly complements the data-centric content. It has a level of playfulness and refinement in execution that is rare to see in large multi-user, multi-touch wall experiences.” —Troy Lachance
“Sports are chock-full of data enthusiasts, so it’s great to see IBM and the U.S. Open taking advantage of that fact with some of the most beautiful infographics I’ve ever seen.” —Sean Klassen
Overview: As with all professional sports these days, tennis is a game of data. From the scores and errors of a single match to a player’s fastest serve speed, number of aces and longest rally, IBM has been tracking the data of the world’s top 100 tennis pros for over eight years. As part of IBM’s larger Data is a Game Changer campaign by Ogilvy, design agency HUSH was asked, for the second time, to bring this data to life at the U.S. Open. By allowing multiple users to engage in a simple, fun and very communal experience—manipulating digital “tennis balls” on a touchscreen wall to uncover relevant stats—HUSH was highly successful in creating an immersive interactive experience that reinforced IBM as a brand that uses data in amazing, compelling ways.
• The IBM Data Wall had three layers of interaction, Playground View, Simple View and Detail View. Each digital “tennis ball” represented a match and the wealth of data that every match produces, and sometimes even included predictions of the outcome.
• HUSH used an open-source, cross-platform creative code source called Polycode to build the 3-D game engine that bounces the balls around the screen.
• On the back end, a database pulled live information via APIs that HUSH built to take data from IBM’s match servers, which would then populate the Polycode data visualizations.
Comments by Leonard Shek, David Schwarz and Katherine Conaway:
Is the audience you were targeting a particularly difficult one to reach? “Sports events and their fans can be some of the most difficult to engage, as they are highly dedicated to the actual game at hand, not augmented layers of digital experience. In the same way that most people commit to enjoying a movie in a theater without the distraction of their personal mobile device, professional sports matches engage their viewers in highly cinematic and (literally) interactive ways already.
“However, there is a built-in behavior of the sports fan that revolves around energy, competition, play, team allegiance, brand awareness and the stats that surround all professional sports. These human behaviors and impulses can be harnessed in very effective ways, and we believe we were able to do this for the 2013 project with IBM and Ogilvy.”
How did this project compare with others you’ve worked on in the past? “Having worked on the 2012 activation, we were out to reinvent the experience so it would feel more like a game itself, with fast action that’s consistent with the idea of real-time data usage. This time our goal was speed—more energy, more movement, more gestures—to capitalize on the on-court action. To get to the core of the sport, HUSH engaged tennis experts whose insights helped the team design the nuances that surround every point, game, set and match.”
What was been the response? “We opened on Kids’ Day, which is when the organizers let the general public in for free a few days before matches actually begin. Children ran to the wall and immediately knew what to do: they were throwing the balls to each other, tapping on them to make the balls bounce back and forth. They loved it. The tennis fans who knew all the players immediately understood the mechanics and the idea behind it. They dove deeper into the tiered experience of information to find out more.”