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article imageNew York exhibit shows off urban computing, aquatic tech

By David Silverberg     Oct 11, 2009 in Technology
A recently launched exhibit in New York demonstrates various technologies in urban computing, pervasive wireless gadgets and even underwater innovation. Find out why Towards a Sentient City could be a peek of what cities can expect in the future.
Street furniture coming to life. Texting a river to check its water quality. Trash tagged with a radio transmitter. These are all ideas put in motion at Toward the Sentient City, a forward-thinking exhibit at The Urban Center on New York's Madison Avenue on display until Nov. 7. Curated by design group the Architectural League, this array of futuristic ideas experiments with embedding computer intelligence in everyday environments.
Lead curator Mark Sheperd says in a statement: "Ubiquitous computing evangelists herald a coming age of urban infrastructure capable of sensing and responding to the events and activities transpiring around them."
He goes on to add, "This exhibition attempts to manifest some of the more abstract concepts that have evolved out of a series of conversations between researchers, writers and other practitioners of architecture, art, philosophy of technology, comparative media study, performance studies, and engineering."
What kind of glimpse into a next-gen urban space is Toward the Sentient City offering? Below are some of the main projects presented:
Too Smart City
Three furniture products do more than just sit around thanks to robotic systems. How so? For instance, the Smart Bench "is a gorgeous two-person seater that recognizes vagrancy and is capable of lifting people up and dumping them off." It's a tongue-in-cheek look at how far some products can go to deter homelessness.
The Smart Bench
This tech-enabled bench can find out when someone is loitering on it, and then angle the bench to "dump" the person off it
Courtesy the Architectural League
Also, the the Smart Trashcan is a metal bin that analyzes what is being dumped. As the website explains, "Throw the wrong trash away, and the Smart Trashcan throws it right back at you." The Smart Trashcan uses embedded processors and interactive voices to make their tech work on usually-staid street furniture.
Amphibious Architecture
Bringing tech underwater in an enviro-helpful way is the MO for this exhibit. Fish and microchips coexist in two New York rivers, where researchers have set up interactive tubes which house a range of sensors below water and lights above water. "The sensors monitor water quality, presence of fish, and human interest in the river ecosystem. The lights respond to the sensors and create feedback loops between humans, fish, and their shared environment."
Texting the river
A developing tech in New York allows people to send text messages to sensors submerged in a river
Courtesy the Architectural League
This innovative technology even lets you send an SMS to the river. Find out if fish just swam by a certain beacon, determine the water quality, oxygen level and more. As the project description concludes: "It makes visible the invisible, mapping a new ecology of people, marine life, buildings, and public space and sparking public interest and discussion."
Trash Track
It's easy to throw out the trash but do you know what happens to it? Trash Track aims to educate people about the chain of action that occurs from the moment you dump that coffee cup to the instance the cup gets dumped in a landfill. Using hundreds of "smart, location aware tags," this project tracks the progress of a piece of trash as it moves through the city's waste management system.
How Trash Track works
Trash Track can find out where a piece of tagged trash goes, from the moment it's thrown out to its journey to a landfill.
Courtesy the Architectural League
A lab processes data sent by a cellphone provider, which finds out where that trash is located. The lab posits a real-time visualization of the tracked trash, which is then shuttled online through a destination website.
So what's the point of this project? The researchers claim it's "a bottom-up approach to managing resources and promoting behavioral change through pervasive technologies."
In other words, the more you learn about how you interact with the city, the more you can do to change your behaviour for the better.
More about Sentient city, Exhibit, Urban computing, Aquatic technology, Architectural league
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