Saturday, April 09, 2016

Augmented Reality Bus Shelter

Greetings from Unconference Canberra, where I took part in a session on "Climate Adapted People Shelter" (CAPS). This is a project to design better bus shelters for Western Sydney. This project seems misdirected to me. The bus shelters installed in Sydney are not hot and uncomfortable because no one knows how to design a comfortable bus shelter. The priority for local government is to maximize the advertising revenue from the shelter, not the comfort of the bus passengers.

Shelters with advertising are made transparent so that the advertising can be see from the road, while the passengers waiting can see the bus coming. Unfortunately the result is a shelter which is very hot in the Australian sun.

I suggest it is possible to design a shelter meeting both the needs of passengers and advertisers. As an example, a low tech solution would be to use perforated advertisements, so that those waiting for a bus could see out through them (just as some buses have advertising wrapped over the windows).

A high tech approach would be a translucent electronic display or virtual window on the bus shelter. Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) consist of active material sandwiched between two sheets of glass, there is then a white sheet of translucent plastic behind to diffuse the back-lighting. It would be possible to replace the translucent sheet with a transparent one, so you could see through the screen from the back.

An approach using off the shelf equipment would be to install a camera outside the shelter and display the street scene on a screen inside to make a virtual window. This has been used as a marketing gimmick as augmented reality in a London bus shelter in 2014. The London unit used a screen the full size of the advertising panel, down to ground level, but a practical unit unit emulating a window needs to only use a screen of about 100 cm. Rather than just a simple video display, the screen could also show the bus timetable. If the unit showed which buses were approaching and indicated which were going to stop, that would be particularly useful for the passenger. Such a display could also include advertising, to offset the cost.

For those who want to take the alternative approach of removing advertising from the bus shelters, the challenge is not redesigning the shelters. The challenge is to redesign local government political and financial arrangements to compensate for the loss of revenue. Can the political benefit to elected officials of a more comfortable bus shelter be shown to be sufficient to compensate for the loss of revenue?

No comments: