Skip to content →


A new film by Timo Arnall for Touch and Jack Schulze for BERG. This is the final version of the raw footage Jack was showing me on his jesusphone at the WIRED UK launch gig (by which time I’d drunk at least one bottle of Irish whiskey).

There are 4 billion RFID tags in the world. They may soon outnumber the people. Readers and tags are increasingly embedded in the things and environments in which we live. How do readers see tags? When we imagine RFID and their invisible radio fields, what should we see? Immaterials explains the experiments we have performed to see RFID as it sees itself.

Here’s the accompanying text. And here’s the film:

Published in people I know researchmaterial


  1. lampcommander lampcommander

    What I love about this is that this is essentially the beginning of a whole new kind of technological advancement. If this is carried through, then findings will lead to RFID field-visualization goggles will lead to RFID field-visualization glasses. And if we can figure out how to see RFID fields, we can start learning how to see other fields in a similar way… imagine the microchip LED contact lenses, expanded and fitted into a glasses frame with an RFID reader and a magnetic field imager… possibilities are endless!

  2. Andy Andy

    Really really cool:) I guess that that’s how Magneto and Electro see the world every day (jupp, I am definately a comic geek^^)

  3. This is a very cool way to visualize the readable field produced by the interaction of reader and tag, as well as show how orientation affects tag readability. Nice work guys, I’m sending readers here for sure.

    Amal Graafstra

  4. Mabbo Mabbo

    iampcommander: unless your imaginary RFID field-visualization googles include a man running ahead to all the radio fields, and flashing a tiny lightbulb in ways that sum to a visable pattern, as these guys have done, I somehow doubt this will lead to anything of the sort.

    Also, read about transhumanism. You’ll love it.

  5. Applied Mathematician Applied Mathematician

    Y_{2,0} spherical harmonic FTW!

  6. Anonymous Anonymous

    thank you..
    this is what we need nowadays: enlightenment through public science.

    good start, go ahead.

  7. yetihehe yetihehe

    @lampcommander – unfortunately you can’t make field-visualizing goggles, because you can’t measure a field from a distance, you can only sample field value in the spot you are sampling it.

  8. pete pete

    @lampcommander: No. You are an idiot. This could never be developed into a pair of glasses. Did you actually watch the video?

  9. Ruff Limblog Ruff Limblog

    You’ve been discovered by Slashdot. Fascinating view of RFID fields. How soon until citizens are chipped at birth?


  10. Eric Eric

    couldn’t these fields just be calculated and drawn by computers?
    don’t get me wrong I like the clever low tech solution, but presumably we understand E&M well enough to predict the readable volume field.

  11. Tim Tim

    Active sensing glasses wouldn’t but what about a bunch of people walking around with RFID sensors that could log coordinates at high resolution and then sent this data to a server somewhere. Provided the accuracy was great enough, this could be used as an overlay in some future high fidelity augmented reality system or as an overlay in an application such as google earth.

  12. Corey872 Corey872

    Pretty cool. It should also be neat to set up a number of still cameras around the reader and expose them all at the same time. Then not only could you make a movie of the field with successive frames from one camera as you have, but by playing the same frame from successive cameras in sequence, it would be like moving around the device while the field is frozen in time.

  13. To improve this visualization, I recommend incorporating augmented reality: First, measure the volume and construct a 3D model. Then, display the volume in sync with motion of the camera. This will allow for easier sharing of the shape of the volume over the Internet and more practical design interaction with CAD tools.

  14. […] But it could be rather fun watching the signals. So how do we visualize radio signals? In a new film by Timo Arnall for Touch and Jack Schulze for BERG such a visualization is attempted. A further step towards Transhumanism or not? Share and […]

  15. Thomas Thomas

    The problem with this tag sampling technique is that by introducing a tag into the generated field, you alter the shape of the field itself. A similar paradox to the measurement of subatomic particle momentum/speed.

  16. Brian Brian

    To Thomas: You misunderstand Heisenberg. It is a mathematic fact that you can only increase accuracy in the measurement of position by losing accuracy in the measurement of speed (or momentum), and vice versa. It’s not that the measurement itself affects the particle, but merely that you can only optimize for accuracy in one parameter by blurring the other parameter over a long time. This basically has nothing to do with the fact that you alter a magnetic field when you place a magnetically reactive object within the field.

  17. Thank you
    -For making it possible to visualize those bubbles.
    -For explaining this simple but ingenuous technique.

    And I agree with you about the logo…

  18. Warren Ellis » Immaterials…

    A new way to visualize RFID fields. …

  19. […] Microsiervos, Make Magazine, WonderHowTo, Gizmodo (FR, JP), Amal Graafstra, William Gibson and Warren Ellis amongst many others. Thanks for all the input and […]

  20. (thanks, lampcommander. You’re humble and lovable.)
    (lights ON)

    Here’s a scenario:
    You (yeti, pete) think of glasses doing what glasses do, which is absurd for the time be-
    Imagine, instead, smart dust that you drop over the field.
    Being smart, it makes sure to cover the 3-D area, thoroughly.
    Plus it measures field strength.
    Plus it transmits that data to your glasses, which process the information and turn it into a beautiful 3D image that… being GLASSES, they are capable of showing to you, visually.
    …The smart dust flies itself back home when it’s done.

    (lights OFF)

Comments are closed.