Whether we are citizens or tourists, we all need information at some point to find places in the city. Walking along a busy street trying to follow a GPS on a small mobile screen is actually a really bad experience, not just for the user but for everyone else. Trying to navigate via this means with another person is even worse, both of you hunched over a mobile trying to work out where you are, it’s not good. Imagine large screens interspersed in useful busy areas that show maps really clearly. The great thing about them being mobile is they can be strategically placed in specific locations depending on what’s happening that day.Use Case: Contextual information about the local area
People are often looking for very specific information about a location on a specific day. If you’re in London and you decide to go to the South Bank for the day, it would be great to know what’s happening when you get there: exhibitions, live music, restaurant opening times etc. Trying to find that out via Google on your mobile isn’t a great experience. Maybe there is an App for that area but if you haven’t downloaded already, then that’s also a lot of effort. Our mobile robots could roam around the area providing contextual information about what is happening that day or even in the next hour. It’s also a great opportunity for local businesses to do real time promotions.Use Case: Helping the flow of the city
Sometimes areas of cities can get closed off or congested with serious traffic or hoards of pedestrians for various reasons (accidents, construction & repairs, big events). Various MIU’s could be mobilized to the area so they can provide real time information about what roads are blocked, what other transport is available, and how to bypass that area in the easiest way. In this way, they could help citizens, local authorities and transport services. They could even be used as temporary traffic lights if they aren’t working for some reason.
Use Case: Information concentrated zones
There are certain places where information is crucial and sometimes hard to come by. Airports, train stations, shopping malls and sports stadiums are all a good example. People are always looking for information whether it’s what platform the train goes from or where to find a shop that sells birthday cards. What tends to happen is people end up asking policemen, security guards, or other types of workers that are not there for providing information services.
These are just a few examples although we can think of many more. The main point is that we don’t believe mobile phones are the answer to everything and actually they can be very anti social. MIU’s that can be strategically used for any given situation on any given day could be really helpful. If we look at our home town of Barcelona, there is a real problem with too much tourism taking over parts of the city and creating tension with the locals. We don’t pretend that we can solve that with robots but you could certainly help to disperse people from the concentrated areas by providing them with real time information about other cool things happening in the city outside of that zone.
In the longer term, we believe there could be many other use cases for urban robots beyond information systems, such as street cleaning and emergency services, but obviously that brings another level of complexity that needs to be solved. On that note, our robot design is like a concept car, utilizing the latest technology that is possible right now, just not used in this configuration. We would still need a lot more thinking to implement but it’s not unrealistic either. Far from taking over humanity, we believe robots can be a help to everyday people going about their lives, and that’s what excites us at Zinc.
Interesting article in French media (for French speakers) from the conference: Le Journal International
This article was originally featured by Zinc, a Design & Innovation Lab that partners with both major brands and startups around the world to design physical and digital experiences that solve problems, delight people and create value.