1 December 2007

Intel’s Urban Atmospheres research project

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putting people first
by experientia

Urban Atmospheres
The Urban Atmospheres project (video) is exploring how people who live in cities might want to use technology, how it could help them develop a sense of community or belonging, or play into their emotional experiences of urban living.

“By gaining a better understanding of what matters most to people in the daily experience of city life, we hope to inspire useful new technologies for urban dwellers, perhaps unlike any we have seen before. We believe this is an ideal time for our research, because of the growth in urban populations; rapid expansion of ad hoc sensor networks and mobile devices with Bluetooth wireless technology; and proliferation of wireless technologies.

Part of our research involves urban probes. These are provocative interventions designed to engage people in direct discussions about their current and emerging public urban landscape-and in the process, reveal new opportunities for technology in urban spaces. For example, as part of Jetsam, an urban probe into public city trashcans, we distributed more than 100 self-addressed stamped postcards, with individual stories on them, around San Francisco. We recorded where we dropped each postcard, then waited to see how they were returned to us, what kinds of messages people left on them, and how people interacted with them.

From the Jetsam study (video) we exposed an active curiosity towards trash and the people who once owned it. Ultimately, the study revealed that a seemingly banal, yet ubiquitous, part of the urban infrastructure is actually a focus of rich human activity, a microcosm of social ecology. It influenced our final interactive trashcan design by focusing it more heavily on the use of digital technologies to reinterpret the social archaeology, presence, and movement of people and artifacts throughout the city while provoking and facilitating a public discourse about such patterns and flows.”

Urban Atmospheres is a collection of newly emerging urban based research projects being conducted across Intel Research. This included not just the work at Intel Research Berkeley but also related projects at Intel’s People and Practices (PaPR) Research group in Oregon and others.

Eric Paulos [personal site] directs the Urban Atmospheres research as a Research Scientist at Intel Corporation. Many of the projects and research conducted within Urban Atmospheres are released openly to the public through this and other web sites as part of Intel’s network of university research laboratories.

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