Design languages can mean the difference between life and death
Portland is trying a new shared space idea in their "festival street." The area near Chinatown opened a few months ago and seeks to blur the boundary between peds and cars by removing traffic devices and sidewalks to create a seamless, multi-purpose space.
They call the psychology behind this "traffic calming" and they seek to make drivers slow down and pay attention.
...but is blurring the lines between pedestrian and auto traffic such a good thing after all?
Maybe so, but only with thought given to the consequences. The New York Times Magazine's 6th Annual Year in Ideas issue recently published a study by Psychologist, Ian Walker about cyclists and automobile drivers sharing the road. He posed and answered the question, does wearing a cycling helmet put you at greater risk of being hit? Apparently, it does.
According to Walker's 2 month experiment of cycling alternately wearing a helmet and not, cars came on average more than 3" closer when he donned a helmet. In addition, the two times he was hit during the experiment, both were while wearing the helmet.
Walker is not advocating that we ditch our safety equipment now. He supposes that car drivers make assumptions about how expert a cyclist riding with equipment on may be, and exercise less caution.
Can car drivers be trained to respond to new, less traditional stimulus that traffic regulatory devices such as lights and signs? It seems so, but the education must be there to help drivers know how to respond. Helmets could become a caution trigger if messaged properly, unlike the current reactions in the study.
Be it helmets on cyclists or the urban design elements (bricks, furniture) dividing lanes rather than striped paint, there are new design language systems evolving in the world of transportation.
The theory being that by inventing a new design language for the traffic system, drivers have to pay attention more. Traffic calming actually forced rivers to pay attention and they in turn went about 10 mph more slowly.
This awareness of new rules and behaviors is what we call "discoverability" in the design world. Some design systems will need aids for learning, like messaging helmets as cautionary to drivers. Others will be more intuitive, like avoiding a pile of bricks as a divider in the road. It's exciting to see a new era of urban planning taking up Design languages as a way to improve flow, safety and awareness.
So, I say, good luck Portland and let us know how it goes!
See more about psychological traffic calming in David Engwicht's, one of the movement's leading proponents, book, "Mental Speedbumps."
I've been playing around lately with hooking up external sensors and switches to WPF and Flash applications. When I sat down to think about a cool object to wire up, one came to mind: the Staples Easy button. This button can be seen in their current TV advertisements and you can also buy them in the stores. They are essentially a big-ass button (BAB) that blurts out their slogan when you press it. I decided to crack it open and see if I could hook it up to my Phidgets interface board.
After taking of the back I was able to see the push button switch which is the item that I needed to tinker with. I de-soldered the board away from the case and hooked it up to the Phidgets board. It worked like a charm. Next I soldered two long wires to the board and threaded them through the bottom of the unit where the speaker was.
After threading the wires through, I reassembled the unit and connected the finished button to one of the inputs on the Phidgets board. As a test application, I created a Flash movie with 5 different sound effects in it. Whenever you pressed the Easy button it would randomly play a sound. The switch is kind of cheap and ocassionally doesn't fire, but it's still great for a project where you need a BAB :-).
By now, you've probably all heard of the LEDs that shut down Boston last week. Today, Turner Broadcasting and Interference Inc., the companies responsible for the stunt, paid the city two million dollars. Ostensibly to cover the cost of a rush hour panic that gridlocked the city, it may also go down as the best media buy in history. After all, international front-page coverage isn't cheap, and it certainly didn't do anything to hurt Aqua Teen Hunger Force's irreverent image.
What has gotten less coverage is the stunt's tie to a local cell - Eyebeam's "Grafitti Research Lab." Dedicated to the evolved embellishment of the city - GRL are the inventors of the "throwie." Essentially an LED taped to a lithium battery, taped to a magnet - the throwie can be thrown at anything metal, where it will stick, and glow. This simple but brilliant idea evolved into larger sculptures, including a luminous Jesus left on a lightpost.
Interference credits GRL as inspiration for the stunt at the end of this video. GRL was somewhat ambivalent about the compliment - posting the following on their website:
"Just more mindless corporate vandalism from a guerilla marketer who got busted. Interference Inc, welcome to the world of being misunderstood, scapegoated, demonized and wanted by the law. Still wanna be a graffiti artist?"
It's an interesting situation, caught between creativity and corporate interests, that both GRL and Interference find themselves in. It is, however, nothing new. Street culture has always had an uneasy relationship with commodification.
The question is, would this have been as big a story if it were simply an art project that caused the stir? How much of the ire is that Turner's marketing department, by proxy, cost the city a bundle in emergency services and Rolaids? How much is embarrassment that we were fooled by something that in the end was literally cartoonish - like those toy pistols that fire nothing but a flag that says 'bang!' And, this is what makes the Interference stunt ultimately different from what GRL does. Instead of being puzzled, or inspired, we feel fooled. In the end, we are captivated as much by the potential danger as the sheer, comical banality.
If you had told someone a few years ago they would have looked at you as if you were mad.
CNET news reports that the state of West Wirginia will be fighting childhood obesity by installing Konami's Dance Dance Revolution in public schools.
And the amazing thing is that the videogame-centric workout scheme has already proven to be effective:
"West Virginia, which has the worst childhood obesity problem in the United States, is stepping up plans to use Konami's Dance Dance Revolution to battle the bulge in its schools.
The state, which plans to put the popular dancing video game in every one of its public schools, said on Wednesday research suggested that it helped put a halt to weight gain.
Preliminary results from a 24-week study of 50 overweight or obese children, aged 7 to 12, showed that those who played the game at home for at least 30 minutes five days per week maintained their weight and saw a reduction in some risk factors for heart disease and diabetes."
If this is not enough to get you curious you can also check out the way Mickey DeLorenzo put his Nintendo Wii to good use and lost a few pounds while having fun (just love the Rocky Balboa look-alike shots).
Turning something usually perceived as a chore into a pleasure by adding play to the recipe should come as no surprise, but these are also just the first indications of what we can expect for the future, a future where the digital and the physical will merge and intertwine.
A future full of surprises.
Hang on to the cart, get ready to have some fun, the thrilling descent has only just about started.
The attention economy breeds new and at times quite bizarre business ideas. FakeYourSpace.com is one of them: a service that provides fake friends to increase your popularity on social networking sites. If you watch the Forbes interview with the founder, you may understand why this site was born...
I've been seeing photos of the new packaging for Windows Vista for a while now. But today I actually got to see it in person and I have to say that it is damn cool. The new hard plastic cases feature a single rounded corner and a sliding door on its side. This is just one the many things that Microsoft has been doing to show that they are thinking about asthetics.
After doing plenty of research, I decided to sign up and start using 360 voice as a blogging service for my Xbox 360. The team over at 360voice.com did aÂ killer job by putting this thing together. Nice work.
Â To me, 360 voice is one of theÂ better things you canÂ add-onÂ to your account.Â 360 voiceÂ tracks and logs what you play, when you're logged on, and your current gamer score/accomplishments. When all is said and done, it writes a nice (or a not so nice)Â blog posting for you.Â
Ok, it's certainly not boring, but I like to draw you in and then refute my titles. It's sort of a dirty trick, but I'm not above it. My article on the state of visual design in the web just went up over at Digital Web. Go check it out and sound off in the comments.
There's a great new website devoted to Geico caveman. Check it out at http://cavemancrib.com/.
From "always-on" to "unifocus" - from attention buyers to attention generators