Second place: Second Story Interactive Studios’ Bank of America Market Data Mirrors

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Tour groups who have visited the new Bank of America building and seen the installation of Second Story’s Market Data Mirrors “have kind of marveled at the presentation of it,” says producer Amber Cartwright. “They didn’t understand how the images were coming through.” Our judges were equally dazzled. “I want this terminal right next to where I sit,” exclaimed Elan Cole. “There is such an amazing sense of dimension to it. It’s a compelling, extremely elegant way of showing complex graphics.”

The Market Data Mirrors consist of 15 plasma screens strategically placed behind a large, semi-transparent mirror, creating the impression of a seamless display. The screens stream live market data from a feed that updates the display every 45 seconds. The data is converted into dynamic graphics using Microsoft Visual C# and OpenGL to sync the information. David Rome, head of production management, says the team went through numerous mirror studies to achieve “the right balance of reflectivity while allowing the images to be clearly seen” on the one-inch-deep display.

Second Story developed a visual system to encompass all the financial information that was important to the bank and to the traders in whose elevator bank the mirrors sit. The geometry, location, and movement of the graphics all correlate to quantitative information: Commodities are represented by rings, rates by geometric shapes, indices by orbs, and currencies by disks. The data changes as the market values rise and fall, and the historical market values of commodities and indices are displayed via the position and volume of the shapes, which unfold or slice up to represent different types of information. Interaction designer Christian Bannister explains, “It was really important to us that we weren’t making anything up. The position of the graphics and how they animate was all data-driven.”

At all costs, the team wanted to avoid having the display mimic a ticker tape. The initial ideas were overly complex, they say, and it “took a long time for us to strike a balance with how functional these visuals needed to be as diagrams,” explains Bannister. “On the one hand, we needed to consider the most functional approach to displaying this information. From the other end of the spectrum, we needed to explore creative manifestations that captured our imagination.”

The mirrors not only present the traders with a new way to see the same data they look at day in and day out; they also offer a chance to reflect. The traders see themselves in the data mirrors—literally, and perhaps metaphorically as well. Says Cartwright, “Traders are looking at this data all day long, but they might not realize its implications or the role that they have as traders and how their personal actions affect the market.”