Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Goal: Make Oakland “America’s First Digital Community”

Innovation Oakland took another step on the path toward reaching its goal today by introducing a new interactive “wayfinder” kiosk. The kiosk can help visitors find everything from parking and a bus schedule, to a museum and a place to eat. Don Carter is director of CMU’s remaking cities institute and is helping to design a larger program to help people get around the neighborhood. He says the kiosks are just the start. “[The kiosks] are probable the most photogenic [aspect] at this point but we think that one of the strongest parts will be the ‘virtual wayfinding’ that people with smart phones or internet connections can use,” says Carter, “five years from now we think that will be the primary way people find their way around.” The web and smart phone applications can be found at the Innovation Oakland web page. The plan also includes a comprehensive design for street signage and functional public art for all of Oakland. An executive summary of the report can be found here. Carter says right now the Oakland streetscape is over crowded with old, out of date, and confusing signs that need to be replaced.

To build the kiosk, a group of four graduate students at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center jumped feet first into the neighborhood. Center Associate Executive Producer Mk Haley says getting around Oakland was a problem the students were living as they launched the project. “They were all brand new transplants to the Oakland area and they had a lot of fun field trips where they poked through every nook and cranny,” says Haley. Several town hall meetings were held to get input from the diverse population that moves through Oakland everyday. Haley says there are two distinct different communities who need help getting around Oakland, “students who will show up with every single technology gadget on their belt possible and they want to connect to satellites and internet and lasers and robots, and then you have the community who just need to now the bus schedule.” (A video demonstration of the kiosk can be seen here.) Haley says the team decided to not spend the time and money trying to make the kiosk able to withstand life on the street corner. Instead the kiosks will be placed inside buildings. “We did a lot of research on the estimated life span of kiosks and it is not very long,” says Haley, “We worked with a company in New York City, their kiosks get stabbed.”

Innovation Oakland is looking for funding to make the plan a reality but is yet to put a price tag on the effort. Carter says that number should be known in the coming weeks. They hope to have design plans formalized in the next 6 months. Carter says they will use that time to look for the money needed to make it a reality. He says they hope to tap into federal and state dollars because they believe the design can be used as a model for other cities and neighborhoods across the country. A report on the design plan can been found here.

No comments: