Metadrift (2015)

Search engines that enable the serendipitous exploration of new ideas and inspiration.

How might we...

...find information beyond what we already know to look for?

...inject serendipity back into our algorithmically constrained digital lives?

The solution...

...a new type of search engine that creates an open landscape of information and data that is ready to be explored with rich audio, visual and haptic cues.


Unity; Data visualisation; Information retrieval; Python

The problem with conventional search engines is that they only show you what you are already looking for or are expecting to find. Search results are typically presented as a list of the most algorithmically relevant or most popular hits. 91.5% of Google Search traffic comes from the first page of results[1] – we are losing our tendency to explore.

By contrast, Metadrift reimagines online search as a tactile experience of navigating through an immersive virtual environment of data, allowing people to stumble across content they would never even think to search for.

It kind of reminds me of like a library, you know? That experience of being able to discover new content [...] I really like the fact that this is like me talking a walk through a forest of knowledge.”

Research Associate, The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design

The system takes thousand of videos and organises them into a spatial layout by theme. The visualisation of this dataset shows a landscape of ideas and content, as groups of similarly themed videos come together forming conceptual clusters. This forms the basis of searching with Metadrift, allowing users to find not only what they’re looking for, but also where it lies in the ecosystem of ideas and what’s surrounding it.

Thematically similar content naturally draws together to form a map of ideas

Thematically similar content naturally draws together to form a map of ideas

The main interface of Metadrift is through an immersive environment. This is a three dimensional representation of data, populated by individual videos and ready to be explored with rich audio and visual cues. As users walk through this landscape, audio content is embedded into the 3D scene, as if walking through a room of conversations. Additional videos pop into view as the users approach, making it easy to find new inspiration nearby.

Traversing through an immersive landscape of content

Additional information#