To promote the launch of IE9 at SXSW, design company Vectorform has built a neat way to visualize Foursquare checkins. In their ‘world’ called Foursquare Playground, you find yourself surrounded by the nearest venues, which enables to to get an overview of what happens around you. With different animations for each type of venue, this should give you an idea of the type of neighbourhood you’re looking at as well as the level of activity in that particular area.
In a very game like layout you can spot new venues around you, each depicted by a building type that would suite the type of location as defined within Foursquare. (Work, home, park, etc.) This whole thing is supposed to be a showoff of the HTML 5 capabilities in IE9 and if you’re not working with this browser Chrome and Safari will do as well. (More support coming up…)
I would say the downside of this visualisation is twofold: it’s a pure grid-like visualization, while your neighbourhood is probably shaped in a more natural form.
Combine this with the fact that not all blocks in your real life neighbourhood are venues, or that a lot of venues appear twice (or are in the same building) and this makes for a map that doesn’t really represent the place you’re looking at. That aside: it does look really nice and the whole thing might remind you of the Sim City games. Check out the video at the bottom of this article to see the introduction to Foursquare playgrounds by Dominic Espinosa from Vectorform.
Even though it has it’s shortcomings this is in my opinion a good example of what you can do with aggregated data and yet another sign that data-visualization has a bright future. Hovering over the venues, which vary in size depending on how many checkins it had, will present you with a brief description of the place.
Venues that currently have people checked in will display a number, so you can immediately see where other Foursquare users are around you. Clicking on a building will then display more information, such as an animation of the people that are there. A chest and a painting on the wall are available to see the tips and current mayor of a place, with people that are checked in walking around the place.
Foursquare Playground has, of course, integration with Microsoft’s Bing and could benefit from the rise of Foursquare users and perhaps a way of mapping the rather abstract layout onto Bing maps. This way it could be a friendly and appealing way to view the hotspots around you, although I wonder what the developers are expecting from smartphone users, which seems like the logical platform to do anything location-based.
If this is to be more than an IE9 showcase, there would need to be ‘an app for this’. On Android please, thank you.