In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto released a whitepaper on blockchain, a technology that has been popularised by cryptocurrency, Bitcoin and now thousands of alternative coins. The technical explanation is one that’s hard for most of the general public to get their heads around, so when people start saying Bitcoin, powered by blockchain is going to replace the world’s money, understandably people want to know more.
What we know about humans is that some people are incredibly visual and despite detailed descriptions or analogies, they’re still unable to comprehend what and how the technology works.
Wikipedia lists the definition of Blockchain as,
A blockchain, originally block chain, is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block typically contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp and transaction data.
By design, a blockchain is inherently resistant to modification of the data. It is “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way”.
For use as a distributed ledger, a blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks, which requires collusion of the network majority.
Blockchains are secure by design and are an example of a distributed computing system with high Byzantine fault tolerance. Decentralized consensus has therefore been achieved with a blockchain.
This makes blockchains potentially suitable for the recording of events, medical records, and other records management activities, such as identity management, transaction processing, documenting provenance, food traceability or voting.
So its easy to see why we need a better way to show Bitcoin to everyday people. Cue IOHK. Named after its CEO and Founder, Charles Hoskinson (@IOHK_Charles). This is his latest project on the resume, next to other impressive attributes like being the CEO of the 2nd most valuable coin, Ethereum back in 2013.
Input Output (aka IOHK) is a research and development company how use peer-to-peer innovations of blockchain to build accessible financial services for all. While that’s a nice lofty ambition, its their visualisation of the blockchain that’s easily their most visually impressive piece of work to date. Don’t forget to check out their Cardano project while you’re on the site.
When you visit https://iohk.io you’ll be invited to view click the button ‘Explore the 3D Blockchain’.. you should click this button. This takes you to an amazing 3D representation of the blocks on the blockchain, complete with dynamic lighting effects that track your mouse movements, there’s crazy reflections, diffused light, highlights, translucency and interactivity. As you scroll your mouse wheel, you’ll move through the blockchain transactions, spiraling back through time. You have the ability to select any of the blocks and get additional details.
Each block is actually made up of batches of transactions. By selecting a block, you can discover data about that block, like their unique ID on the blockchain, the date/time of the transaction, input/output value, fees and the number of transactions that made up that block.
Production Director, Rouska Lundin said,
As the technology becomes more pervasive and it impacts on everyday life more, it’s important that we attempt to explain it in a meaningful way.
As if the visuals weren’t enough, the unique block hash is translated into a perfectly unique visualisation and sound clip. While dynamic sounds are impressive, they sound like midi files from the 90s. My buddy Clinton suggested a soundscape that closer aligned to the visuals users were seeing, like mechanical sounds of the future of the robots from Transformers. I have to say I agree wholeheartedly.
If you have a block hash from a transaction you made, you can insert it by searching at the bottom of the screen and be taken directly to your block. Want to save it, just right-click and save an image, those who understand web content will know how awesome and difficult that feature is.
So now to get to the detail on how and why this was created. The company that created it was Kuva, an award winning digital art and experience design studio, creating new forms of interaction and audiovisual aesthetic. Founder Mark Ludin gave a talk back in January on how the Symphony of Blockchains was constructed. It does run for 25 minutes but if you’re into web development at all, it is definitely worth your time.
The whole thing comes together as an amazing was to visually understand the series of transactions that combine over a series of time, like elements of an Apple TimeMachine backup, or Microsoft’s Windows 10 Timeline feature, just way better than both.
There’s also been other attempts to visualise cryptocurrency, by our own Data61 from CSIRO with EthViewer, but that has nothing on the work from Kuva. Its not surprising they have worked with some of the biggest brands in the world, like Google, Twitter, Adidas, and Toyota.