You may have seen the TED talk by the London based data journalist and information designer, David McCandless, where he states that "information is beautiful". Here at City Innovation Group we agree with this statement, but we think it needs to be taken one step further. We believe that "interaction with information should be beautiful", particularly when you are accessing information on-the-go. That is why we are launching a new project that uses augmented reality to make interacting with real-time bus information at the bus stop, easy and even delightful.
Many of us have experienced it: You're waiting for the bus, you own a smart phone and you want to know when the next bus is coming. If your city has a lot of money, they might have installed LED signs (costly, and quite frankly, ugly). If not, you are left with a number of apps and websites that will tell you when the bus is arriving.
The problem is, interacting with these sites and apps is not beautiful - you have to know the number of the bus you want, which stop you are at, where you need to go and you need to input all of this information on a tiny screen.
A few weeks ago, I ran a 'Delighting with Data' workshop at the Augmented Reality conference, VOX: the 4D summit - presented by a local Augmented Reality company named Daqri. My team and I decided that AR, far from being a gimmick, could be used to make accessing bus information seamless, and even sexy. We also realized that in doing so, we were dealing with a unique branding opportunity for the city.
The slides above document the process. The 'lite' version starts with placing a branded and individualized sticker at each bus-stop*. You simply open the app, hold it up to the sticker and you can then scroll through information (on your phone's screen) about which buses are coming next. If you click on one of the information panels, additional route information appears. It's that simple. The sticker is the unique branding opportunity for the city or other sponsors and it costs next to nothing.
The extended version of the service allows users to hold their phone to a service map. This time, you see an overlay of where you are and which buses are coming towards you. Many apps provide information about when the next bus is coming but few apps provide the ability to do on-the-go route planning. Our service solves this, beautifully.
To build a prototype of this service, we need access to real-time bus data (which exists in many cities, but we would love to pilot in LA), some money (we're crowdfunding), and champions in local government.
Lastly, for those without smartphones we are considering having a number that regular phones can text. What do you think? necessary?
* It should be noted that while we have used LA's Metro logo on the sticker in the slides above, this is simply a mock-up and we are not affiliated with Metro (yet).
Post by Christine Outram
We believe that "interaction with information should be beautiful", particularly when you are accessing information on-the-go.