RAT.Systems by Julie Freeman and Marcin Ignac

Rodent Activity Transmissions* (RAT) systems uses real-time data to allow us a peek into the lives of a colony of naked mole-rats (Heterocephalus glaber). The project consist of a data artwork "A Selfless Society" responding to the colony behaviour and series of live data visualisations giving us a deeper understanding of the structure of the mole-rat colony.

Naked mole-rats are unique among mammals, with unusual features that result from extreme adaptations to living underground. They have become an important model system for healthy aging, they resist cancer, they are studied to help us understand how complex societies evolve and are maintained, and even for how social environment can affect fertility. Studying an animal with what is at first glance a bizarre lifestyle, can inform us about more general biological principles of wide importance to us and other species.

Each animal has a tag (a passive integrated transponder) implanted under it’s skin, the type vet’s put in dogs and cats but smaller. A series of sensors placed around the burrow detect when a tagged animal is close by. We log the tag ID, sensor ID, and exact time data on a server where we can retrieve it to calculate new data (such as speed) and create live animation. For the data artwork we used WebGL to create sketch like aesthetics while the infographics website is using HTML Canvas to create bespoke charts.

In addition to giving us a deeper understanding of animal behaviour through real-time tracking and data collection, we are exploring the naked mole-rat data through visualisation, sound, animation, and kinetic sculpture.

The creator of this work has supplied multiple images, please click here to view.