Interactive street furniture that grows into an urban garden of social, contextual information.
The bus stop is a self-organizing piece of street furniture that serves both as a gateway to the offerings of the local neighborhood and the transportation system at large. Much like Guimard’s intricate wrought-iron masterpieces for the Paris Metro, the interactive bus stop carries on the heritage of serving both as portals to the transit system, and as landmarks that represent neighborhoods. By blending form and content with technology, we turned a bus stop into a sensate and engaging landmark that can self-organize to have a varied and distinctive character derived from its locale. We envisioned the bus stop as powerful urban landmarks in areas of the city that might otherwise be featureless. In addition, the bus stop functions as a neighborhood concierge, providing hyper-local, relevant information and guidance both online and in person. The transportation system is thus extended beyond its traditional role of connecting people to places physically.
Facing the city, the exterior of the prototype bus stop is designed with a smart skin in mind that senses and responds to the presence of pedestrians, thus creating a playful, engaging artwork. It can be programmed with a wide range of continually changing content as appropriate to particular localities and seasons. The prototype employs LEDs embedded in silicone tiles and video sensing for the smart skin. LEDs in architecture often take the forms of screen that obliterate the underlying form. In this design, we created coarse silicone-coated LED tiles that conform to the parametric surface and form the exterior weather cladding. In this medium of carefully calibrated translucency, the LEDs ?are not only in intensity but also in size, while the outer surface texture creates specular gloss and self-shading e?ects, creating a natural interplay of light and shadow that does not undermine the shape of the structure, while presenting an unique display.
Facing the waiting passengers, the interior provides displays and interaction screens for way-?nding and schedule information, news, local businesses and points of interest, and local community networking services. One interior display is a touchscreen built into a natural niche in the structure, allowing for easy interaction with detailed content. In addition, a programmable ticker allows the bus stop to transmit the most relevant pieces of information at a distance.
All content on this screen is user generated, including entries for local services, businesses, events, and classi?eds. The interface concept used for this screen is the urban garden, with the trees serving as interface elements. Each tree represents a topic, and each leaf a message. The goal of the system is to foster interaction and communication between the users of the bus stop, and to allow them to shape the digital form of the bus stop with their own actions. The exterior, a direct re?ection of this interface, thus reflects the richness, flow, and intensity of communication.
The electronics of the bus stop were completely custom made by Sajid Sadi and David Bouchard, and uses 34,000 LEDs connected to controllers that convert video output from a standard PC to the display on the exterior face. The controllers had to be specially designed with the requirements of the system in mind, since there does not exist a tiling system which fulfilled the needs of the bus stop for thinness and the particular visual effects we sought. The support structure was parametrically designed, CNC cut from plywood panels, and test-fitted. Then the bus stop was dismantled and shipped to its final home in Paris.
The bus stop was conceived and developed during three months, in collaboration and with the kind support of RATP Paris, the tranportation authority for the greater Paris Metro. In summer 2006, the prototype of an interactive bus stop was brought to Paris, assembled on site from flat-packed components, and shown as part of the exhibition “Les cent ans du mouvement” (A Hundred Years of Movement), organized by RATP Paris.
This project was done at the Mobile Experience Group at the MIT Design Lab, in collaboration with RATP Paris. Parts of the text are quoted from the official documentation brochure for this project.