As you read these words, there's a small force field right in front of your face, emanating from the computer or phone you're using to access Gizmodo. Like all electromagnetic fields, which spring from any object charged with electricity, it's invisible — unless you're using an app designed by two UX design students earlier this spring.
According to Wired's Liz Stinson, the custom-built app was designed by Luke Sturgeon and Shamik Ray, two students at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design. The duo were able to monitor nearby electromagnetic fields (EMFs) using an Android phone, which — like all smartphones — has an embedded magnetometer, the magnetic sensor that makes things like the iOS Compass app possible by measuring the magnetic force of the earth.
The magnetometer is able to detect all kinds of magnetic forces (hence the dreaded "compass interference" message), including the EMFs that spring from electronic devices — which is exactly what the duo were interested in doing. Then, they wrote an app in Processing that could visualise all that raw data in real-time on the phone's screen — so that as the force gets stronger, the colours and forms on the screen intensify.
Finally, using a long-exposure DSLR, Sturgeon and Ray were able to capture animations of the EMFs by slowly dragging the phone around the device in question. The images capture the ephemeral patterns that spring from every electronic device around us — portraits of, literally, the ghost in the machine. [The Creators Project, via Wired]