web analytics

— urbantick

Tag "orientation"

A team of students from Berkley has taken on the project of mental mapping San Francisco. It has turned in to a really interesting piece of research about how people see the city and how they imagine the city.

Using Mental Maps is nothing new it goes way back to Lynch and Gould and White, but it has not been used for a while and in combination with digital tools it could have a sort of revival. The great aspect on this project ‘Visualizing Mental Maps of San Francisco‘ by Rachelle Annechino and Yo-Shang Cheng is how they allow room for the method to breath the uncertainty of its nature. Mental Mapping is not about accuracy and precision, or truth and objectivity and to combine this with GIS or mapmaking is a very difficult task for not to say impossible.

San Francisco - Corridors
Image taken from Visualizing Mental Maps of SF / San Francisco’s Deadzones and Corridors is a map depicting both where the city’s “corridors” or main drags are, the neighborhood names associated with them and a measure of “neighborhood-ness” throughout the city (the residential density metric). The map has three layers: a choropleth (heatmap) of residential density in red tones, areas zoned for commercial activity in blue and street segments with verified commercial activity in yellow..

The essential thing is to give the playfulness a meaning and find a balance for mapping it in GIS. With this project it is not achieved in the detail, but in the overal construction, how the different sections combine and the picture the presented result paints.

“I think of San Francisco as being a bunch of main streets in small towns, all smushed next to each other.”

The project is the team’s final master project at the School of Information at University of California in Berkley. The link to the final project presentation can be found HERE and the very detailed report is HERE.

The findings are presented in seven groups and you would probably expect more Kevin Lynch influence, but they firmly hold up their own topics. Which is great, it’s over fifty years in between, but still from a urban planning perspective the five groups defined by lynch should at least have been challenged.

Their topics are Orientation: Which way is North? It doesn’t always have to be at the top of the page. Re-orient or dis-orient yourself in San Francisco. Corridors: Where are the hearts of each neighborhood? Barriers: Is it really that close? It’s not always as simple as it looks getting from one neighborhood to another in San Francisco. Boundaries: What neighborhood are you in? According to whom? Storymaps: Take a tour of the city, guided by the thoughts of locals. Game: Ready, set, go. Invisible bike race! Gallery: Draw a map or a picture of your neighborhood, however you see the space.

San Francisco - Boundaries
Image taken from Visualizing Mental Maps of SF / Visualising Neighbourhood areas from different sources. Some of the boundaries are firm and bold, where as other can be fuzzy and blurred.

The different topics each address an aspect and the project combines the data collected through participants with additional information such as landuse and density as for the Corridors, but also with various sources such as Wikipedia, Zillow and Craglist for the Boundaries. This creates an interesting mix that manages to minimise the burden usually put on the Mental Maps in terms of expectations. They play a lot better in combination. Especially the sequence on boundaries and the changes over time on Wikipedia is really an interesting aspect of the boundary definition and naming discussion.

San Francisco - Sketches
Image taken from Visualizing Mental Maps of SF / A Mental Map sketch by Victoria F., one of the participants of the study. She has been living in San Francisco for 23 years.

There is a lot about the city that has be pulled out using somehow unconventional combinations of techniques and it offers great access to ‘local’ knowledge of the place.

Via Roomthily

Read More

Navigation in al Weather conditions is something not only trained survivors do, but citizens on a daily basis do as part of the urban migration taking place day after day. The scene goes like this: poring rain, in a hurry, forgot to look up the route down from the tube station to Polly Street and I guess not toped up the mobile for the free web allowance… Anyway there is this little piece of paper with a printed Google Map of the area on it. Either the design of the map is too much comic or you are holding it the wrong way up, but it takes too long to decipher. By the time you have located the destination, the paper is wet, by the time you decide which route the paper is soaked and … you will never be able to take it out of your pocket in one piece again. So no checking on the way.

Crumpled City
Image taken from Dezeen / The London map all crumbled up.

You need a water prove tier resistant survival map for All Weather or better All Urban conditions. It comes in the design by Emanuele Pizzolorusso for Palomar, the ‘Crumpled City – Soft city maps for urban jungles‘.

Interesting how this ‘technique’ of crumpling the map adds a third dimension to the information and allows for a different perspective, THe flat plane all of a sudden becomes more tangible and a sense of abstraction is present. Through the aspect of irritation of a road all of a sudden going physically uphill the navigation process is more alert and the product placed in a firmer understanding of reduced reality. A benefit of course empowering the user to be freed from the truth of the map via the introduction of possibilities and uncertainty.

The product was presented only last year and go extensively reviewed. The darling of all reviewers it seems. There were articles or mentions from Wire to NYT, or from the TimeOut Lisboa to the Vogue Living.

Crumpled City
Image taken from Palomarweb / The New York map all crumbled up.

However, the product also promisses some hidden spots: “Each map proposes 10 “SoulSights”, places that are chosen to excite you. These are places filled with intense emotions that are brought to life by the people passing through or stopping off in them. Visit these places and you will feel like an artist, a poet, a photographer, a director, a lover and a dreamer.” This sounds intriguing and might be something different to explore.

So far only the versions are the limit, currently versions are available for: Rome, London, New York, Paris, Berlin. So there are some treasure places missing, but hopefully they are working on extending the coverage. At least there is a hint on the bottom of the website where a Hamburg Map features.

Crumpled City
Image taken from Palomarweb / The Hamburg version of the Crumpler City Map.

Via Dezeen

Read More

This week a new guidance system for the ‘Quartier des Spectacle’ in Montreal was officially unveiled. It is a light projection based signal system to help visitors find their way through the cultural district. As part of its Lighting Plan, the Quartier des spectacles is exploring the possibilities of light for creating signage and expressing identity. A recent pilot project experiments with projecting light onto the pavement to mark the urban landscape. This intervention, realized as part of the Montreal All-Nighter, reinforces the brand image of the cultural heart of the metropolis by bringing together light and graphic design.

Image taken from Quartie des Spectacles on flickr

The basic idea really to guide pedestrians and after having seen the ultimate promotion clip on the culture district’s website one knows why pedestrian guidance might be needed, this is a busy place. There are a lot of events and activity generally happening simultaneously and a efficient and in this case fun tool to support orientation is definitely a great way to go about it.
It very much reminds me of the street gaming project last year that was organised in three competing cities in the UK. Coverage HERE. They also used light projections to guide the players. In addition the game also responded and recorded the players performance, guess the interactivity for the Montreal project could be extended beyond the synchronization with the traffic lights. But still a very interesting project that surprises. The project was realized in collaboration with the City of Montreal, particularly the Bureau des festivals et des événements, the Service de police (SPVM) and the City’s traffic experts, Artistic Directors: Ruedi Baur + Jean Beaudoin, Intégral.

Read More

Google street view has been introduced back in 2007 and it is already part of everyday navigation. The initial hype ha settled, at least in countries were it is introduced now for more than a year like the UK. In others legal battles and other misunderstandings are still under way.
However Google is never short of news stories and with the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver they have taken Street View to the slopes and enable everyone with access to the internet to see the beautiful landscape and ski slopes the athletes will be heading down next week in detail along the tracks. Picked up as reported by the Google Lat Long Blog or Gizmodo.
The area covered so far is Vancouver at Whistler Mountain where the Winter Olympics 2010 start on the 12th, which is on Friday.

Image taken from Gogle Slope (Street) View / Vancouver Whistler Mountain

You can test it right here. Put on your skis your already on the slope!

View Larger Map

Documentation here in the clip with details of how it was recorded.

Read More

We all use it and without it no one would actually be able to really use the internet. The digital world of linked pages containing information has grown so dramatically that already twelve years ago it became impossible to navigate without navigation aids.
Solution had to be found and a new startup firm was leading the way into a future of searching – Google. Over the following years, the management of knowledge became the ultimate service gem. Google rose to transform into the biggest internet company. Of course they don’t only help find internet users find the content they are looking for (or finding at least something), they also are the biggest online advertisement company. This is kind of the ‘making money’ side of the management of knowledge. It is not that you know a lot, but that you can relate the knowledge conveniently to what others might also need.

Image by urbanTick / screenshot showing search results on spezify with the search term urbanTick and playing an urbanTick clip directly form youtube.

However, the search engine interface of the Google website is just one of the search tools. Google provides similar tailored search services for all kind of networks and websites. For example you can click to the right of this text in the third column where it says ‘Custom Search’ and find the content you are looking for directly from the urbanTick blog, all provided by Google.
So there are lots of different things searches are good for, but there is one thing I am really getting tired of the bloody list of results. How boring is this? We are all talking about mapping and location based services, networks and clusters, dynamic objects and relationships, responsible environments and individuality, visualisation and graphics, but all we get is a list.
Yes, I agree it is the simplest and most plain way of ‘listing’ the results. It seems that Google has even removed the time line graphic I described earlier in another post, which I was really excited about, is now transformed to be a list. I know, there are a lot of issues with all aspects of time and this might not be the best example for not having a list but nevertheless new visualisation methods are needed. Google has made an attempt at changing this at least for image and video content by acquiring/developing coolIris, but here again it is a (nice, interactive) three four row list.
Can you imagine how excited I was to come across this new service specify? It is absolute crap and can’t be used for a decent web search, ahh sorry it depends on what you are trying to find, but it comes up with a surprising new concept of showing the result. It displays the content spatially scattered across the screen and you can drag it with your virtual hand and move around on the plain to crawl through the result. Together with the newly announced all body gesture input technique (that actually works – article by the NYTimes) presented this week by Microsoft for its all new gaming platform Natal this could then lead to a real life body experience of virtual search. People would really start wandering off through the results, picking up the results that seem interesting and real-virtually putting them in their pocket, to later pull them out again as the fit with a new blog post for example. The results are all displayed as icons or previews of the content, media content from youtube or vimeo can be played directly from the search result which is nice. It can be called a spatial search experience, since the contend is scattered across the surface. However I am not sure about the organisation of the results spatially and there is definitely room for improvement as the additional dimension adds room for additional criteria. It also operates at the moment a very simple structure that even allow for a address that can be understood e.g. http://www.spezify.com/#/urbantick – try it out yourself and experience what ‘googling’ the internet could feel like.

If you feel like seeing the tutorial clip on youtube first before trying something so radically new – scared eh? – watch this

Read More

Are we losing our Sense of Direction? What a rhetoric question. Without the context this does not really make sense, or does it?
Usually as things are starting to be fun, some one comes over to tell you how bad this is and that you should not do it because of this or this or even this reason. At least it was like this when you were a teen, battling for independence with beloved ones.
However this is long gone and things have changed since. And still the same situation. But now we are wiser and think twice, maybe it is true, or at least partially, there might be something about this other opinion I have not thought of in this way.
Here we re with the news, finally, GPS is BAD!
Yes, you are right, your SatNav is doing harm to you as you drive. At least this is what the headlines of the news on the New York Times blog and the walrus magazine suggest Actually it is all based on an article by Alex Hutchinson.
We actually have an other SatNav article her on urbanTick, that addresses the problem of arriving at the desired location but in this case it was about spelling the destination name correctly.
In general Alex Hutchinson points out in hi article that navigating is a learning process that is a dual relationship between brain and action. The more we use it the better we are at it, but it needs to be maintained.
Scientists have identified an area in the brain, the hippocampus, to be responsible or this sort of navigation task. “The brains of London cabbies have outsized rear hippocampuses, because they are required to painstakingly learn the byzantine lanes and byways of the Old World city. (NYblog)” Most of us will not attempt to learn the apparently 25’000 street names and thousands of landmarks required for becoming a cabby. However navigating and orientating do not necessarily require you to know all the names of the streets. Other elements are important in day-to-day navigation. Hutchinson refers to Veronique Bohbot a researcher at McConnell Brain Imaging Center: “Bohbot demonstrated in a widely cited 2003 study that our mapping strategies fall into two basic categories. One is a spatial strategy that involves learning the relationships between various landmarks — creating a cognitive map in your head. The other is a stimulus-response approach that encodes specific routes by memorizing a series of cues, as in: get off the bus when you see the glass skyscraper, then walk toward the big park. For their study, Bohbot created a virtual maze that tested both methods; they found that about half of us prefer spatial strategies, while the other half prefer stimulus-response” (walrus magazine). We probably use both of these techniques depending on the situation, but most likely we prefer one over the other. What navigation type are you?

Read More

How do we create mental maps? In a story the New Scientist reports new development in the area of brain studies. The research was presented in nature in September 2009.
Over this question scientist have long speculated. The involved brain areas have long been identified, but the how was still subject for debate. Apparently the region in the brain is called hippocampus. The problem so far was that recording the activity required the subject’s head/brain needed to remain fairly stable and this is not possible for normal navigation. The New Scientist reported earlier initial findings related to the brains spatial navigation activities.
Reportedly after paying Quake II researchers came up with the idea of using a virtual reality surrounding for the experiment to record brain activity while navigating.
Researchers at Princeton University developed a Quake based VR environment for rodents as well as a special navigation ball on which the rodents could run (in a stabilizing harness to keep them relatively still) and navigate the VR maze. Basically they created a mini IMAX for the mouse, reports wired.com.
They were the able to scan the mouse’s brain activity as it learned to navigate the maze. Some treats along the way helped I guess.
However, there is little information on what they have actually found. At the moment the main interest seems to be the technique how they used to record the brain activity, so mainly the VR for mice set-up. It looks fancy though.

In these experiments scientists are not really interested in how and what the brain records and how participants (in this case mice) actually understand the maze or the environment they have navigated. Here they simply assume that this is taking place. They are talking about a mental map but are just looking at activity as ‘space’ is navigated. To some extend this is only implicit looking at how the memory and sense of place is building up. History is always biased by the fact that it is in the past and it is remembered back from a present state that might be rather different from the past and this influences the way the memory is recalled. Some sort of processing is taking place and the result is a weighted remembering. Through this the history has a present relevance, but is not ‘true’. In this respect the mental map as a review of the maze experience is probably a rather different case than the activity of navigating it. Let’s wait and see how scientist interpret the rodent’s sketch of the maze…

Read More

New development on the navigation gadget front. This time it comes from Microsoft and that is in it self a bit surprising. So far the company has not been closely linked with navigation. In general they are trailing behind everyone, generally trying to improve the stuff other have developed and promoted. In this sense this ‘new’ development has to be looked at.
The research featured as an article on Technology review this week where its chef researcher Billy Chen introduces us to the concept. They are using video for driving directions. Instead of Google Street View, they are playing video recordings of the route in Microsoft Virtual Earth. The research is partly about the recording and synchronising of the map a video, but partly also about the influence of this method for direction instructions. The results of course claim that the animated instructions enable participants to find the route easier, with 70% to 60% for participants who were instructed only with image (Google images I presume).

Image by Microsoft – (a) Original spacing of panoramas. (b) Final spacing of video frames, after slowing down at landmarks/turns and speeding up between. (c) Straight ahead orientation. (d) Final orientation with look ahead. (e) Widening the view and freezing the landmark thumbnail.

However, the paper written about the project can be found HERE. It has to be noted, that it i not simply a replayed clop. An important feature of the software is the way it focuses on landmark and guides the users view files. It is not a passive record that has just followed the movement. Rather it is a carefully calculated section of the 360 Degree recording. Through this movement emphasis is put on certain aspect along the route, say a landmark. This means that the route somehow has to be processed and interpreted. How quickly and with what kind of system the software can be rolled out is not clear,         

Read More

When have you gotten lost for the last time? It must have been a while. The art of getting lost has got lost itself nowadays. The sense of not knowing the exact direction to a familiar object, place or location can be very unpleasant. On the other hand it can be very reliving. If you are prepared to accept that you have lost control over the situation or at least the location you might find yourself enjoying it.
The idea of stoling through the city, not directed by a specific destination is a concept introduced by the Situationists. The aimless wandering or derive, as it is called in the Situationist writing, can even be a method to observe the city.
However, people also get lost not on purpose. The marketing campaign of a number of companies make us aware of a lot of possibilities we could get lost and with this fuel a lot of people’s fears of the immediate surrounding. In car navigation has become the number one gadget in car sales, it has overtaken the air condition feature or the CD player.

Image by Fischer Portugal for Honda / promoting Honda’s Compact Navigation System.

People seem to enjoy being talked through the environment, and then it all depends on the voice. I assume gadget developers put a lot of thought into the voices they offer as the direction instructor. Even how it is said must be important. In a recent interview Bob Dylan has announced that he is in talks with GPS manufacturers to lend his voice for a next generation of Gadget. Click here for a sample of his voice. I am still waiting for the vice over that starts shouting at someone who just missed the turn for the fourth time. “You twat, can’t you follow instructions! I said turn LEFT!” The other way round, people shouting at the in-car-navigation-system are probably quite common.
The BBC has recently collected a number of stories of people getting lost with the GPS. Due to a software fault : ) the GPS will not correct your spelling mistakes. And it seems that people quite often misspell their destination. And a little knowledge is still needed to distinguish between Capri and Capri, as a Swedish couple have learned after they arrived in the Industrial Town of Capri instead of the island Capri in Italy. via GPSCity

GPS from DustFilms on Vimeo.

Read More

With the latest iPhone software update, version 3.1, the long awaited augmented reality applications finally have arrived on the iPhone platform. Already a month back acrossair’s Nearest Tube application was hyped on the net and in the news, but now it rather quietly was introduced. It featured on the blog before here.
It is now available on the itunes app store for £1.19. I wonder how a software price of 1.19 is calculated?
Together with it came a bunch of similar public transport applications for example the London Bus application for £ 0.59 by presslite.
Of course both developers cover a range of cities with their apps, where you have to by the app for each city separately, of course.
Presslite does cover, London, Paris, Berlin, Lyon, Moscow, Washington, Marseille, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, Madrid, Amsterdam, Beijing and Hong-Kong. Acrossair on the other hand covers New York and London.
I can imagine that it is a battle over this field, as potentially there are a lot of customers. It is for the commuters, but also for tourists and then it is for everyone else who is in the city. I guess that the companies assume that nearly everyone needs their app. I don’t think it is that simple, though. For one, not everyone has the gadget to actually use the software and two; the idea of getting lost in the city is a myth. The believe that everyone in the city needs this sort of navigation aid is based on the idea that no one knows their way round and constantly get lost. Well, in a large city such as London it is impossible to know every corner, but I believe that people know their daily route quite well and are perfectly capable of navigating along familiar trails. Only when it comes to out of routine activities on unfamiliar territory navigation aids are use. For example in most cars here in London you can spot an A-Z on the back seat.
However, back to the functionality of the applications, the Nearest Tube works beautifully, it is as simple as it gets, both, in terms of graphics and functions. You tab the icon it opens and shows as a camera overlay the direction to the tube stations. The only thing you have to confirm is an iPhone operating system specific question, because the program wants to use the location information to locate the position, so the user has initially to confirm that the software is allowed to do so. Other than this there is no button, no developer logo, no info or about, nothing – how nice! You can, however, tab on the displayed tube sign and it will take you to Google Maps and shows the direct route to get there. It is a five star application; it does what it is meant to do and nothing more.
The London Bus on the other hand, does not convince at this stage. It claims to give you bus route information in London, but actually it is limited to central London and to a fraction of the bus lines and only covering major bus stops. Those are basically the tube stations. Although there are a number of bus stops on Tottenham Court Road it directs you either to Tottenham Court Road Station on the South end of the road or to Warren Street Station on the North end of the road. Out side the centre, I tried to use it to get in to work this morning around Tufnell Park; the software would not even register the location and therefore not even give information about distant stations.
It also features Augmented Reality but only as an additional visualisation, where as Nearest Tube only builds on AR. London Bus is map based with the option to use AR and it is not as neat as the acrossair version.
So Nearest Tube is cool, London Bus is not so cool.

Image by urbanTick – Nearest Tube information in my bathroom

Read More