Monday, May 14, 2012

Economist - World in Figures

This one was in development for a long, long time.  I was only involved with the globe portion a few months ago and then more recently to clear up a few details.  So here's what it looks like.

That's a picture taken from space.  The world is actually pastel.
It's ambitious as hell.  I recommend checking it out.  Basically, it's about traversing a data set, the kind of thing Economist subscribers would be interested in.  You've got all sorts of stats about countries, ways to graph and compare and so on.  The globe is just used for selection.

The Globe

Obviously, it's WhirlyGlobe or I wouldn't be mentioning it.  For all the complexity of the rest of the app, the globe is pretty simple.  There's one big image for the countries and their borders, chopped up into the usual chunks.  There's a layer of text on top of that for the country labels.  Lastly, all the selection is handled by an invisible lookup into a typical vector data set.

That last bit is a little different from my old approach.  Since we're not displaying the vector data, it isn't present in memory for selection.  However, you can do selection using the bounding boxes I build on top of the shape files.  That's what makes it reasonably zippy and keeps memory usage low.

Nowadays I almost always do that.  Once the vector data is converted into a raw Drawable form it's not convenient for selection.  Since selection can be (relatively) slow I just hunt around in the appropriately indexed vector data.  I'm doing that in the layer thread so a little delay is fine.

Data Visualization on the iPad

What they were trying to do here was interesting.  I've discussed similar things with other prospective clients.  People can get very excited about comparative statistics mapped on to a globe.  Most people don't have the money to spend or a really firm idea of what the product should be.  These folks obviously did and I think the app was a natural fit for their brand.

I wasn't closely involved with the project (sub-sub-contractor) so I don't know where they're going to take it.  Good use of WhirlyGlobe, though.  Very appropriate.