Experience design agency HUSH embraces the new year with an immersive, inventive, sharable – and 3D printable – puzzle that unlocks the user's imagination and creativity while highlighting how specific places can inspire and touch our emotional core.
Dubbed "TopoTopo™," the free platform honors the geography and topography of Earth's vast terrain, inviting users to make it their own digital canvas to develop and, in the process, connect memories to locations. "Places have meaning," states HUSH Founding Partner/Creative Leader David Schwarz. "Geography and topography are often the backgrounds to our experiences. They are the setting in our own life stories. The physicality of a place represents the scene and all of our experience play out against that scenography."
Connecting the complex world of open source data, modern fabrication techniques and customization capabilities afforded by digital platforms, TopoTopo™ features unlimited complexity of terrain and a rapid production pipeline. Simply type in the name of any location on Earth and the interface will create a 3D visualization that can then be tweaked and explored via the web-based interface. Then, after selecting puzzle preferences, users can have their location 3D-printed in countless materials and mailed anywhere, delivering a unique, customized 5" momento.
Puzzles possess a universal appeal that HUSH was eager to tap into for the project. "Traditional puzzles range in complexity," Schwarz explains. "Appealing to all ages, puzzles can take on diverse forms, are typically low cost and easily portable. Yet, even with the amazing longevity of the puzzle, few have taken advantage of the modern digital toolset or customization through real-time, cloud-based information."
Using geographic, open source data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, HUSH parsed the data with the aid of the Google Maps API to make it easy for users to find virtually any location on Earth. Regarding the use of open source data and its advantages, Schwarz says, "Open source projects mean that people can explore and create things that we can't yet foresee. Thousands of places on Earth await to be discovered as the world participates in TopoTopo™ to capture places that mean something special to them."
While displaying a slick interface with dynamic motion-based on complex data sets, TopoTopo™ also represents a particularly meaningful expression of HUSH's design culture and way of seeing the world. "How can we capture the experience of a place and preserve it? How can we access a memory of a place?," Schwarz asks. "A digital-physical puzzle seemed to be a good challenge to take on these questions, while also leveraging our passion for data, design and physical building."