App Visualizes Radio Waves From Cell Towers, Satellites Around You

Richard Vijgen

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By Devin Coldewey

When you check your phone or laptop, the only indication of radio waves in your area is probably the bars for your Wi-Fi or cellular signal. But electromagnetic radiation is everywhere, being transmitted from millions of towers and Wi-Fi routers — and this app lets you visualize the wireless data landscape around you.

It's called "Architecture of Radio," from Richard Vijgen, an artist and programmer in the Netherlands.

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"We are increasingly dependent on a global ecosystem of digital signals. We use them for so many things, yet we cannot see them," reads Vijgen's description of the app. "We can see the roads we use to travel, the buildings we live in, but not the infrastructure that is changing the world."

The $3 iOS app (Android version coming soon) takes your location and plugs it into a global database of wireless signals, from cell towers to satellites. You look "through" the screen as you would for stargazing and augmented reality apps, looking out at a simulated view of these transmitters — of which there may be far more than you think.

It's all just for fun and effect, though: You can't actually "see" radio waves with the app, and it won't help you find a better signal — but observing the chaotic interlapping spheres of signals might give you a new appreciation of the fact that your phone can find a signal in the first place.