Title: Bitmat
Urban Installation, pressure sensors, LED lights, Silica, ballon
Year: March, 2012

This is one of the outcomes made by my team Lingua Franca( we are Lola Ye, Sherry Yang and Xiaoye Lin) , the piece is named BITMAT.

IBM City Forward, Columbia University GSAPP, and Parsons School of Art, Media, and Technology investigate the future of public space in the development of smart cities, through a collaborative visioning workshop. Participants will have the opportunity to collaborate and communicate with IBM representatives, city officials and community organizations through the course of the workshop.

As we all know, public space is the interface for exchange in cities, and today more than ever the site of rapid change. The physical presence of public space continues to grow more dynamic as the use of complementary virtual networks provide for increased access and mobility. Together, they form an adaptive infrastructure in cities, emerging, networking, and responding in unprecedented ways. The very users of these augmented spaces reshape them constantly, exposing new potentials in the city, as they are forecasting, mapping, and interacting in a smart way.

The investigation will focus on deploying the IBM City Forward platform in real space, in real time. Leveraging City Forward’s ability to aggregate, visualize, and socialize data, a multidisciplinary group of designers and researches will position the platform to identify conditions and criteria for public space in smart cities. Once identified, the team will develop a proposal for a publicly accessible physical representation of this data in New York City.

An installation of this type provides a direct opportunity for transparent public participation and activation of urban spaces. By engaging with end users, the platform allows for real time feedback, creating a responsive cycle in which each citizen acts as a sensor within a smart city. The interactivity of these citizen sensors in public spaces is scalable. As these spaces become more sensate through use, feedback cycles may expand to communicate between public spaces into physical and virtual networks that shape smart cities.

Sensing Broadway:
Lingua Franca was assigned to the site - 34th and Broadway, which was introduced as the historical “garment” district, now rebranded as “Fashion Centre” where it was “now home to hundreds of graphic designers, architecture firms, artists, galleries, off-Broadway theatre companies, dance studios, and performing arts organizations.” Although it was supposed to be a creative zone, our team noticed more of its geography as a corridor between Times Square and the 34th Street Macy’s. This walkway was emphasized with the expansion of the Broadway pedestrian zone in the middle of the street.

Unlike other parts of the Broadway pedestrian zone, this zone seemed to have a very cold and less friendly.

Mostly tourists walking between Times Square and Macy’s, we could imagine more business people using this corridor. Although there are benches and tables set up, activities are mostly indoors (perhaps due to weather) and there wasn’t as much street-vending as the parts of Broadway closer to Time Square.

It seemed to be very limited dynamics and interactions between people who are of different groups. In terms of people and buildings, most people did not enter into buildings or even looked into the buildings even if they are very beautiful or historic-looking (like the Gotham Building). There was little interaction with the stores around them because the stores were also very closed-off. Even with the pedestrian walkway painted on the street, many people chose to use the regular sidewalks.

So people speedy walked down the street, little stopped and looked around as they were on a path towards something else.

There was very little congregating or interacting among each other because although the seats were set up, there was nothing to view/do. Even further up the street, people used the benches more because there was a private plaza with a statue in it .

As a fashion district, at first, it was difficult to locate what made it ‘fashionable’ but after a bit of looking, we realized that the actual fashion workshops were located above the ground floor and second floors. There are mannequins, test clothing hanging, advertisements and other ‘distinctly’ fashion district things.

Apparently there are window displays for artwork located at 215 West 38th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenue), 34 West 38th Street and 36 West 38th Street (both of which are between 5th and 6th Avenue) but these are difficult to find/notice if you are not looking for specific windows.

Sounds in that site mostly were cars, sometimes music from street musicians but not located in the corridor (rather, further south in the plaza or on 7th Ave), constant rumbling of subway underneath.

The site is surrounded by big Buildings, not a lot of light. Some of them are historic buildings (Gotham, Marlboro, Church, turn of the century lofts). Good job from pedestrian walkway to add colors, plants and other things to a barren streetscape. Steam vents in the middle of the street, some trees

Smells were from the the steam vent, car exhaust, not many street vendors of food.

The entire space was giving us a sense of coldness because the street was narrow compare to the high architectures and there were not a lot of sun, but a lot of wind in there.

We thought that an urban installation might be a good way to solve some problems, more or less. It will be conducted at the rest area in the middle of Broadway/37th street.

Two components - the mat on the ground and the bubbles above.

The material of the mat will be semi-transparent colorful silicone rubber, and it will also be pixelated. A LED light and pressor sensors underneath each pixel. A Fluid silicone gel underneath will serve an unexpected walking experience for pedestrian, which is also a good way to slow down their steps.

LED light will become lighter and lighter based on how long the pressor sensor has been pressed. Therefore, we can get an overall view of the directions of pedestrians are heading to.

The bubbles will start to grow since someone stops. As the increasing time that he stays there, the bubble above will keep growing, the maximum size will be around 70 inches in radius, which also will create a huge shadow for him. Others, we assume, are willing to stop and stay in shadow. Since more people are gathering, new conversations are generating as well.

Our goals for participatory are partially achieved poetically, and also it is gonna be an art piece in urban environment.


We have an official workshop blog . Here is our team's tumblr page, we almost recorded the whole work progress within one week.

Sponsored by IBM city forward

A follow up prototype ( 2013 )