The Blockchain as art
The Symphony project began with a question: how do we represent blockchain technology in a way that is stimulating, entertaining, and audio-visually engaging for a wider audience, technical and non-technical. In other words, how do we explain the abstract and give form to the formless. Starting as a single project, Symphony has grown to become several creative initiatives.
Symphony 2.0 by IOHK
IOHK is responsible for Symphony 2.0: an interactive 3D explorer that allows users to traverse the topographic history of the Bitcoin blockchain. Symphony 2.0 visualizes the blockchain’s mempool – where unconfirmed transactions are stored – as a gravitational swell, around which confirmed transactions spiral in concentric rings. Users can explore these rings block-by-block, from the first transaction confirmed to the most recent.
Symphony 2.0 also has a virtual reality component developed for Vive using WebVR. This has been exhibited at past events and will be available to experience throughout the Symphony world tour.
Symphony 2.0: How It Works
Giving feeling to data isn’t easy, but telling a good story requires an emotional connection.
To achieve this, we used a technique called additive synthesis to generate sound on the fly, and utilized the parallel nature of graphics cards to synthesize a sound for each of the thousands of transactions that can make up a block. The unique sound signature that plays when you visit a block consists of each transaction producing eight sine waves (a fundamental pitch and seven harmonics). The fundamental pitch is determined by the transaction value, and the amount of randomness added to the harmonics partials is controlled by the fee-to-value ratio of the transaction.
The volume of the harmonic partials, meanwhile, is determined by the spent-to-unspent output ratio. This creates a range of sound that communicates the health of the block: a virtual heartbeat that codifies the volume of transactions and the number of transactions unspent.
Merkle tree view
Symphony by Kuva
Kuva is a boutique creative agency based in the UK, and is responsible for developing the virtual and augmented reality pieces for Symphony’s events and exhibitions. These experiences augment specific components of the blockchain using Symphony’s code.
Kuva also develops the Symphony mobile app: a 3D visualization of the blockchain’s mempool that provides real-world information on the current traffic and fee of the network. The Symphony mobile app currently supports the Bitcoin network, but will soon extend to second-generation (Ethereum) and third-generation (Cardano) blockchains.
Access the Symphony GitHub repo to learn more about Symphony’s development, or build your own version using Symphony’s open-source code.